4 ways pastors can navigate change and transition in ministry

March 24, 2021

Spiritually and emotionally healthy disciples have the capacity to become wise and discerning leaders. Wise and discerning leaders are also persistent and patient leaders.

Regardless of the size and even effectiveness of a local church, there is always going to be a need for change and transition at some point. The ability of a leader to navigate these waters of change will be a determining factor in the longevity of his ministry at a particular church.

In other words, how we manage change and transition will determine the effectiveness of our leadership.

Following are four ways we can navigate change in our ministries.

Shepherd your people
Leading and managing transitions begins long before the need reveals itself. The biblical picture of a pastor is that of a shepherd. We are to care for the people God has entrusted to us. It is crucial for us to embrace this aspect of our ministry. People simply will not follow your vision if they do not trust your heart. Our congregations learn our hearts as we celebrate, laugh and cry alongside them and their families. We cannot lead people we have not first shepherded. Love the people where they are and they are more likely to follow your leadership to where they need to be.

How we manage change and transition will determine the effectiveness of our leadership.

Communicate more, not less
As leaders, we are often so excited about the vision and transitions that we do not take the time to communicate well with others. We wrongly assume that they are thinking about the life and ministry of the church as much as we are, but they have jobs and families that require their attention as well. As leaders, we must be patient and invest time in problem-casting and vision-casting. People are more likely to grasp the vision if we have communicated the urgency and necessity of the transition.

Build consensus
After clearly communicating the vision, a good leader will begin to build consensus around the vision. I once received a text message from a fellow pastor who asked me to pray because his church was getting ready to vote on a matter that would advance their vision, and he wasn’t sure how the vote was going to go. In situations like these, one way pastors can work to build consensus is through informal conversations with people. Make a point to spend time with people who you know will have questions, and answer their questions over a cup of coffee while being open and honest with them.

Be aware of the emotional side of transitions
Often as leaders of change, we think once the church has officially adopted the vision, the difficult part is over. However, we must be aware that transitions are often accompanied by feelings of loss by some within the congregation. That sense of loss is often expressed through various emotions. Our response to those emotions will help determine the success of the transition. As leaders, we must be persistent and patient as we lead and manage the needed transitions within our churches.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third article in a four-part series on how pastors can lead well. Here are other articles in the series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 4.


by Sandy Marks  
Church Health and Revitalization  /  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

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