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Pastoral Transitions (When Asked to Leave)
By: Dr. Fred Childs
Making a change in pastoral ministry is challenging for any pastor and his family, even when they have chosen the time to make that transition. However, a staff pastor and family who are released from their present ministry and must make a transition to a new place of ministry face a different situation. Thus the question, “How should a minister respond, act, and live if he is asked to leave his pastoral ministry?”
Ministers have been released from staff ministry positions for various reasons: decreased church income, downsizing of pastoral staff, the phasing out of a particular ministry position or consolidating church ministries. Regardless of the reason(s) for ministry release, this type of transition can be traumatic to the pastor and his family. Because of the emotional, financial, spiritual, and family issues, this topic must be addressed to help ministers and their families who have been asked to transition from their church ministry. Having been through this type of transition myself as a staff pastor in the past due to pastoral change and staff downsizing, I share some insights that will help edify and support the minister and his family who are in transition.
The ministry family leaving a church may experience emotional stress, financial strain, grief, and a sense of frustration. The exiting staff pastor may question the effectiveness, value, usefulness, credibility, future, and potential of his ministry. Income may be an issue, especially if the staff pastor was the major wage earner in the family. There will also be the question of health insurance. Because health costs can be expensive, health insurance is a necessity. If a transitioning staff member lives in a church parsonage he may wonder, How long can we live here? These are just a few of the concerns that a transitioning staff pastor will be forced to address. What follows are a few suggestions that will help the transitioning pastor and family.
1. Affirm your personhood as a Christian.
God loves you. You, your ministry, and family are valuable to Him. He knew this change would take place before you were asked to make your transition. He has confidence that, with His help, you will make it and your future will still be bright. He knows this is a traumatic change that affects your life, finances, ministry, self-perceptions, spouse, and children.
2. Continue growing in your personal faith walk with God.
You will need to grow spiritually through this situation. Don’t become stuck on, Why is this happening to me? Instead ask,How can I grow through this situation and see glory brought to God?
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(14) For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
(15) And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. (16) Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. (17) And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. (18) But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money. (19) After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. (20) And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. (21) His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. (22) He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. (23) His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.(24) Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: (25) And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. (26) His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: (27) Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. (28) Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. (29) For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. (30) And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Here we have one of the most improperly quoted scriptures in the Bible. In fact, of the 24 years I have been in the church and of the 3700 or so messages I have either preached or heard preached in those 24 years I have heard this verse of scripture referred to many times, but never in the context in which our Lord intended it to be quoted.
Nearly every time I heard this scripture recited, it was in a message in which the speaker was trying to inspire the saints of the church to become soul winners or to work harder for the kingdom. However, the parable of the servants and the talents was never intended as a message to the saints, but it was a message from our Lord to the Pastors/Leaders of the churches. And a warning of the consequences of burying the potential that is in the people whom our Lord would place within our grasp and ministry.[ read more...]
Too often people are afraid to budget because it seems to be more trouble than it is worth. However, a budget is not a nervous breakdown on paper. It is an organized and systematic manner of controlling income and expenses so a person can recognize danger areas in their financial life before they happen.
Too many Christians find themselves in financial hardship. Why? We belong to the body of Christ and we have God on our side. If heaven is his throne, the earth his footstool; if He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, then why are his children struggling and finding it difficult to “get by” in this affluent society?
The secret to getting ahead is not from “have luck in the stock market” or “making that once in a life time investment” or even in “receiving an inheritance from a wealthy family member”. It is defined as time!
All the investments and inheritances one can attain will not be the solution if you don’t take the time to plan and protect. People must take the time to discipline themselves to have a written plan that will provide the guidelines of scheduling money in and out of the home, thus providing a means of protection from financial disaster.
A Christian should expect their finances to be in better shape than that of the average person in the world. Christians have the backing of the God of glory and His Word! One of the first things a Christian should do is take the time to investigate the scriptures concerning their financial situation. Notice some scriptures that give us guidelines for planning, preparation, and protection of finances.[ read more...]
“If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.” I found this old Russian proverb in the early pages of a recent book written by Gary Keller. The title of this book, “The One Thing” jumped out at me above all the other titles on the shelf. This concept of One Thing is totally foreign to me. I have always thought myself quite adept at doing several things at one time. I have done it all my life. I learned this early in my working career. In fact, the manager of the McDonalds restaurant where I found my first job told me, “The one thing you will learn and take with you from this job is the ability to do many things at one time.” It was not long before I learned first hand what he was talking about. Since that day to this, I can rarely remember doing only one thing at a time.
There is in me a drive that feels like I am not being productive unless I am accomplishing several things at once. Rarely do I ever do “One Thing”. According to Keller’s book, doing more than One Thing is usually not the most productive or profitable way to conduct oneself. This book has some incredible insight as to how to stay on track and build momentum towards your goals, but for many of us preachers, doing more than one thing at a time is a way of life that we are unable to change.
Most Pastors and ministers of the Gospel have families and ministries as well as secular jobs or businesses. This creates a constant pulling in different directions that leaves us feeling tired, confused and even guilty that we are unable to accomplish all that we want to do in any of these areas. We endlessly wrestle with our time constraints as well as our energy levels for each of these.
It would be very nice to do only One Thing Mr. Keller, but for the average preacher out there, this prospect of staying focused, is probably going to be a challenge for us beyond the pages of your book.
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They may not sit in the back row. In fact many times they sit closest to the front. Most would say they are “Faithful” as they seldom miss a service. They appear to be the backbone of the church. They pay their tithes. They dress right. They look right, but once you really get to know them, you find that they are the Back Row Bullies of the church.
These people all too often run the church. They decide who is going to do what. They decide how loud the music is and what color the walls of the sanctuary are going to be. Little happens in the church that they don’t know about and don’t in some great way influence the out come of. Theirs is a mission. Theirs is a job that nobody else will do. Without them they know that the church would fall apart. They are the Back Row Bullies.
No one is quite sure how they gained such influence. Maybe it has to do with the amount of money they gave at one time or even still. They may have family within the church whom they have great influence over. Their measure of sacrifice is probably great, but nonetheless, they are Back Row Bullies.
We all know what a bully is. It’s someone who pushes their weight/influence/resources around to cause you to do something you would not ordinarily do. Let me break that down a bit. You ordinarily would not put up with someone creating division in the church behind your back, but since they give so much money… You otherwise would not allow them to have the position in the church that they have, but because their influence over so many in the church is strong…[ read more...]
Failure – In the business world, this word isn’t an option. But in the church, it almost seems like a requirement. Look at the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. While the Bible lauds their faithful successes here, check out their Old Testament stories, and you’ll find that God used people who repeatedly failed and doubted him.
So the next time you feel like a failure or even a hypocrite – encouraging your congregation to live one way when you’re failing in that very same area yourself – remember God’s amazing penchant for using seemingly imperfect, irresponsible, and faithless people to further His kingdom. In fact, here are some specific places where you might be feeling like a failure, along with promises for you to claim.
Correcting and confronting people about sin when you know the pitiful condition of your own heart. Remember that God detests sin, but he already knows that you’ll fail Him. Victory doesn’t come through any power of our own, but only from God’s strength over evil. Approach God and admit your weaknesses. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:8-9)
Preaching on quiet time when you don’t have one. Change the terminology if you need to. A quiet time is just a means of recharging your own spiritual batteries on a semi-regular basis – even if it’s not a daily quiet time. “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) Being still is hard to do if you’re running in the opposite direction. What will happen if you stop and listen to God? “You’ll be made new in the attitude of your minds; and you’ll put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:23- 24)
Speaking on bringing people to the Lord when you haven’t led anyone to Him in years. Double-check your source and motivation. Jesus said that only people plugged into Him could be fruitful. “Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. I am the vine; you are the branches. If[ read more...]
Good leaders motivate, mobilize, direct and resource people to fulfill a vision. Our Lord knew well how to do all of these with His own disciples.
For too many years we have viewed the Pastor of the church as the sole supplier of edification in the church and as a result, he has little time to develop other leaders around him.
Whether you are the president of a corporation, the quarterback of a football team, a general in an army or a pastor of a church, it is important to realize the value of having a team around you who support and who work to carry out your vision. Without this, your desire to carry your church into a new dimension of revival may never take place. It will never become a reality as you alone do not have the resources or human ability to do it by yourself. God’s will for your ministry is bigger than you alone. You are going to need a team around you to help you get the job done.
Take the quarterback for instance. His goal is to get the ball from one end of the field to the other. He can run the ball. He can throw the ball. He can probably even kick the ball a bit, but he has a problem. There are several obstacles on the other side of the line of scrimmage who are just waiting for that ball to move so they can come and take it a way from him.
His problem is not that he does not know what to do. It’s not that he does not know how to do it. His problem is that he cannot do it alone. It’s impossible. He needs a team around him who will block for him. He needs people who he can hand the ball off to once in a while. There needs to be someone on his team who he can throw the ball to and trust that that person will do all he can to run it through a defensive line of huge, strong, mean, people who do not want the ball to get past them. Most importantly, he needs blockers. These fellas will systematically put themselves in harms way to protect the quarterback. Because if the quarterback is in any way hurt or removed from the game due to injury, the game is over for his team.
You see the quarterback is not the fastest. He is not the strongest. He is not the most agile. He is however, the one calling the plays. He is the one who knows what it’s going to take to get the ball to the other end of the field. The quarterback does not make the touchdowns, he puts the ball in the hands of the ones who will.
Many pastors have thought for too long that they alone are the quarterback, the running back, the blockers and the entire defensive line. For this reason, their churches are too often stuck at the line of scrimmage with no means of advancing toward the desired goal.[ read more...]
There’s a difference between leadership and management. Management consists primarily of three things: analysis, problem solving and planning. If you go to any management course, you’ll find it revolves around those three things. But leadership consists of communicating your Vision and Values.
If you don’t clarify the purposes as the leader, who will?
Here are a few guidelines:
Believe it or not, the bigger your vision, the easier it is to reach. People are rarely motivated by small visions. They will follow a big vision easier than a little one. People need a purpose. Giving them a grand vision will enable them to connect as some level with that vision. If your vision is narrow, you may fail to interest some people. However, if your vision is large, it will leave plenty of room for others to get involved.
Don’t worry about solving the problem before casting the vision. A good example of visionary leadership would be the United States President, John F. Kennedy. Regardless of what you think about his politics, Kennedy stood up one day in the early 1960’s and said, “We will put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.” He was clear; he was precise; and the vision was something people could look to. Now, here’s the interesting thing – when he said it, the technology to put a man on the moon hadn’t even been developed. That’s visionary leadership! Just because you don't have all the pieces of the puzzle just yet, does not mean that you can't share the vision. Let others come along side you who will bring those pieces to the table.
Your God determines how big your goal is. So, how big do you think God is? The issue is not who do you think you are, but who do you think God is? In your dreams for ministry, don’t limit yourself by saying, “What can I do?” Instead ask, “What can God do? What can God do in this place?” Then, use every single tool and resource that God puts in front of you - no matter what it looks like. Judging whether or not a resource if "of God" will limit God's ability to bless you in your work for Him.[ read more...]
Bi-vocational ministry is an essential weave in the fabric of the church today. It is a common and yet very misunderstood form of ministry, and often even by those involved in it.
The term “bi-vocational” infers that a person has two vocations. If a pastor or minister is bi-vocational it indicates he or she has another source of income beyond the church.
The term “bi-vocational” does not mean “part time”. One may be receiving a partial salary, but in reality he is still a full-time pastor or minister. Perhaps the best way to define a pastor who receives all of his income from a church is “fully funded”, not “full-time”.
In today’s challenging economy many individuals choose the role of bi-vocational ministry over a fully funded one. If you are one of those I assure you that you are not on an island alone. It is important that you accept your bi-vocational role, as a valid form of ministry, but also that you understand its potential limitations.
Five ways to know whether or not your plan is working.
First let me establish what growth is; Growth takes place when a sinner is converted into God's Kingdom. Transferring members is recycled growth. Growth takes place when the church goes out into the harvest field (world/community) to gather the harvest (sinners).
The church is not of the world but we are the "'light of the world." We have been placed here to do the work of the Kingdom. Jesus called us a city set on a hill and the salt of the earth. We have been placed in this world to let Jesus Christ shine through us;
5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
Jesus is interested in Kingdom growth (converted sinners). His plan is that all would come to repentance, this is the will of God. True growth is not budgets and buildings, but it is souls added to the kingdom. Every church must have a plan to add souls to the kingdom. If you do not plan for this to happen then it is not going to happen. Some plans succeed, others fail. The question is, do you have a plan, and is your plan working?[ read more...]