The Eight Costs of the Pastoral Succession Crisis: Part 1 – Personal Costs

The challenge of pastoral succession is a topic of increasing interest for good reason. In the next decade we will see an unprecedented number of pastors hitting retirement age. In a recent study by Barna Research, we learn that the average age of pastors has increased by 10 years over the last 25 years and is currently age 54. In 2017, only 1 of 7 pastors are under age 40. In some denominations, the age is even higher. For example, one denomination, using Auxano’s new pastoral succession toolbox, has a much higher average age than the national norm–40% of it’s pastors are over age 60! 

But rather than focusing on the stats of pastoral succession and the coming wave of aging pastors, let’s take a closer look at what happens if we don’t “get succession right.” As a reader you are most likely aware that pastoral succession is a challenging and emotional topic to address for many church leaders. The purpose of this article is to wave a red flag with a spirit that says, “We must have this conversation.” For many church leaders that conversation needs to happen sooner than later. What really is at stake if a senior pastor fails to pass the baton to the next senior pastor? What kind of loss will a church experience if it doesn’t lovingly address this crucial topic at the right time? 

To capture the weight of the crisis, I will cover eight costs: four through the personal lens of the pastor himself and four through the lens of the congregation and the resulting broader impact. 

The Four Costs to Pastor

Failure to Thrive, Personally

The first cost to the pastor is the overall inability to thrive at a special season in ministry where transition is normative physically, logically and biblically for a leader.  As Will Heath, Auxano’s lead navigator for pastoral succession, shares often: “Every leader must move through the natural ministry seasons from “preparing” to  “doing” and then to “mentoring.” For example, a Levite priest in the Old Testament shifted the kind of work they performed at age 50.  Heath uses this biblical pattern as a guideline for helping pastors shift their “ministry season” to one of increased mentoring. I like the metaphor used by Bob Buford that leaders should navigate a journey from “warrior” to “king” to “sage.” The failure of succession planning keeps leaders working like warriors–laboring heavily like younger men do– when they should be transitioning to a “sage” stage where their experience and wisdom does the “heavy lifting” of work. 

Collapse of Trust, Relationally

Usually, people around the leader see clearly the “emotional block” and unwillingness to think through the succession planning question. Over time some of the best and most trusted relationships for the leader, start loosing the bond of solidarity. Ranging from mildly awkward to downright toxic, the entire dynamic of the leadership will shift. If the people in pastor’s sphere of influence are a leadership constellation, the stars will soon begin falling. 

Lack of Equipping, Strategically

The irony for the senior pastor who is not preparing to transition is that they rob themselves of the beauty of ministry in the final chapter– one that can and should be defined by equipping others. Robert Clinton in his classic work, The Making of Leader, emphasizes that the greatest fruitfulness in ministry comes in the later years as leaders lead from depth of character and a lifelong of learning. Pastors in their fifties, sixties and seventies have a bank vault of wealth to give away from their personal experiences, but often do so incidentally rather than intentionally. This is most evidenced in how they do the same thing the same way year after year in ministry. That is, they don’t change the mix of “doing ministry” and “developing others.” To use one of my favorite metaphors from Jim Collins they refuse to transition from “time telling” to “clock making.” They simply don’t invest into other leaders who will make the church stronger when their season of leading is finished. 

Forfeit of Legacy, Permanently

The most heartbreaking cost, short of moral failure, is the loss of a leader’s legacy when pastoring the flock long beyond their season of effectiveness. Again, it’s so easy for a senior pastor to be blind to their decreasing value as a “ ministry doer.” (Again, they might have amazing fruit as a “leader developer” but they don’t make the transition.) No matter how well a pastor leads over their lifetime, how they finish will mark how they are remembered. It’s like an airplane ride: it doesn’t matter how well your flight attendant service was at 30,000 feet if the plane crash lands. 

As you can imagine, the cost is very high for the leader who refuses to build a meaningful succession plan. But that’s not the entire picture, as the costs are even higher for the church. In a follow-up post will walk through the next four costs below. 

The Four Costs to Church

  • Loss of Momentum, Organizationally
  • Drain of Enthusiasm, Silently
  • Death of Humility, Symbolically
  • Fumbling of Influence, Culturally

What is a Pastor to Do?

Are you at a point to starting thinking about the succession conversation? Are you on a team to where this conversation is overdue?

Think about it: How will people celebrate your leadership when your day at the helm is done? It’s not too soon to prepare.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Mancini

Will Mancini

Will Mancini wants you and your ministry to experience the benefits of stunning, God-given clarity. As a pastor turned vision coach, Will has worked with an unprecedented variety of churches from growing megachurches and missional communities, to mainline revitalization and church plants. He is the founder of Auxano, creator of VisionRoom.com and the author of God Dreams and Church Unique.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Succession Is: A Shift in Stewardship

The farmer’s day-to-day activities look different from season to season.  Sure, some things are the same, but his changing priorities have a significant impact on how he manages his time from season to season.  The activities required to plant a field are very different than the things required to harvest it.  The various activities that demonstrate a farmer’s stewardship in one season are different than the activities that demonstrate his stewardship in the next.

This is easy to understand, right?  Let me ask you a question.  Would you consider the farmer to be a good steward if he plowed his field during a time of harvest?  Of course not.  Why?  Plowing the field is what you do to prepare the soil for seed.  Plowing at harvest would destroy the crop.  This isn’t stewardship, it’s stupidity.

Here’s the point.  A commitment to stewardship implies a willingness to allow the change in season to result in a change in activity.

To illustrate further, let’s take a look at how the Bible exposes us to two distinct aspects of time.  Kronos is measured time.  This is where we derive our modern word “chronology.”  The Bible expresses Kronos with references to hours, days, months, years, etc…  Kairos, on the other hand, is seasonal time.  Unlike Kronos, Kairos is not constrained to specific measurements.  Here is an example.

For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers…Acts 13:36, ESV

The “in his own generation” is a reference to the kairos in which God placed David in history.

One of my frustrations with the capital campaign industry in the church space over the past 30 years is that it has fostered a teaching of stewardship that predominately followed the categories of time, talent and treasure.  These are all Kronos expressions.  What has developed is a limited sensitivity and discernment for what stewardship actually is and how stewarding one’s kairosimpacts their life.  To illustrate my point, ask someone at church to illustrate the topic of stewardship with a picture.  I’m willing to bet 80% would draw a dollar sign or some other representation of currency.

What does this have to do with succession planning?

Everything!

The Church in America is experiencing a seismic shift in leadership.  Pastors, by the thousands, are aging into a new season of influence.  They are about to enter their retirement years.  As with the farmer, the leaders that do not adjust their activity (Kronos) to the reality of their changing season (Kairos) will no longer demonstrate good stewardship.  Indeed, succession planning is one of the biggest stewardship challenges the Church in America will face over the next 5-7 years.

In the same way the capital campaign industry helped foster a narrow perspective on stewardship, the search industry is fostering a narrow perspective on leadership transitions.  As I wrote in the first post of this series, succession planning and replacement planning are not the same thing.  Trying to navigate a planned leadership transition through the lens of replacement planning is like using a dollar symbol to define stewardship.  Yes, it is part of the conversation, but there is so much more to discuss and account for.

We are at a time where pastors need to be like the men of Issachar; men who understand of their times and know what they ought to do. (1 Chronicles 12:32)

Or, to say it another way, we need pastors who are willing to allow the reality of their changing kairos to determine their kronos.  We need pastors to shift their stewardship.

> Read more from Will.


Want to learn more about pastoral succession? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Heath

Will Heath

Will Heath is a unique voice on the topic of succession planning. He has served the local church for over 20 years in a variety of ways: serving bi-vocationally, as an Executive Pastor and consultant. His ministry and professional background have afforded him rare, front-row access to succession plans at various stages of development and implementation in the business, ministry and nonprofit community in Dallas, TX. In 2010, Will commissioned (and personally funded) a national survey of 600 pastors on the issue of retirement based transitions. In 2012, he began speaking at conferences and consulting with ministry leaders in the area of succession planning. Will joined the Auxano team in 2015. He leads the initiative to help ministries understand how to effectively navigate seasons of leadership transition. Will lives in the booming metropolis of Murphy, TX with his wife Ali and their two girls. In his spare time, he enjoys coaching high jump for their local summer track club, disc golf (RHBH) and volleyball. In 2014, Will had the honor of being selected to serve as a Board Member for Christar, a missions agency that plants churches in the context of least reached people groups.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Pastoral Succession is a Family Matter

I was recently on the phone with a pastor that wants to start the process of succession planning. Our time on the phone was another reminder of how personal the issue of succession planning is.

Our call started out like so many others. He and the Executive Pastor gave me the background of the church. They listed some of the issues they think need to be addressed over the next five to seven years. They asked for my initial thoughts and other questions related to how I go about helping churches like theirs. We talked for about 45 minutes before his Executive Pastor had to leave for another appointment.

Once it was just Bob, the Sr. Pastor, on the line I took the opportunity to get a little more personal. I asked a simple question…

“How are you and your wife handling the idea of your eventual retirement?”

The tone completely changed!! The initial part of the call was all about organizational priorities. Now, we were able to start digging into his personal motivations.  Here is a summary of what we talked about:

  • He wants to stay involved with the church after he retires
  • The fear of hurting people by not transitioning well is a significant motivation
  • What will he do next?
  • His wife’s transition is just as important as his
  • He is wondering what their financial future will look like

Succession Planning is bigger than hiring the right person, developing leaders or making sure the organization doesn’t lose momentum.  Don’t get me wrong – these things are important. But in the process of addressing the organizational side of succession planning we must be careful not lose sight of our opportunity to help the retiring leader wrestle through their personal fears and concerns.

> Read more from Will.


Let me know if there is any way we can serve you in this season. Let’s start a conversation.

Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Heath

Will Heath

Will Heath is a unique voice on the topic of succession planning. He has served the local church for over 20 years in a variety of ways: serving bi-vocationally, as an Executive Pastor and consultant. His ministry and professional background have afforded him rare, front-row access to succession plans at various stages of development and implementation in the business, ministry and nonprofit community in Dallas, TX. In 2010, Will commissioned (and personally funded) a national survey of 600 pastors on the issue of retirement based transitions. In 2012, he began speaking at conferences and consulting with ministry leaders in the area of succession planning. Will joined the Auxano team in 2015. He leads the initiative to help ministries understand how to effectively navigate seasons of leadership transition. Will lives in the booming metropolis of Murphy, TX with his wife Ali and their two girls. In his spare time, he enjoys coaching high jump for their local summer track club, disc golf (RHBH) and volleyball. In 2014, Will had the honor of being selected to serve as a Board Member for Christar, a missions agency that plants churches in the context of least reached people groups.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

What Process Do You Have in Place for Succession Planning?

Here are five common questions leaders wrestle through when trying to decide what their succession planning process should look like.

Q – WHAT DO YOUR GOVERNING DOCUMENTS REQUIRE?

Don’t expect a lot of guidance here.  Most Constitution and Bylaws only speak to replacement planning and are silent on the broader issue of succession planning.  Consequently, the selection of a broader succession planning process is influenced by other factors.

Q – WHAT IS THE REASON YOU ARE YOU DEVELOPING A SUCCESSION PLAN?

An unexpected transition may push you towards one process option while a planned transition would push you towards another.  The “Intentional Interim” is often the process of choice in emergency transition situations.  The “Stop and Go” and “Overlap” options work well when you have time to plan ahead.

Q – WILL THE CURRENT LEADER STAY ENGAGED IN THE MINISTRY AFTER RETIREMENT?

If so, you may lean towards the “Stop and Go” or “Overlap.”  The answer to this question will also influence how you account for each of the five Signposts as you develop your succession planning strategy.

 Q – HOW “HEALTHY” IS YOUR MINISTRY?

Some ministries have a healthy culture.  Other ministries, however, face significant challenges. Healthy ministries tend to implement the “Stop and Go” or “Overlap” options while troubled ministries tend to utilize the “Intentional Interim.”

 Q – DO YOU NEED AN OIL CHANGE OR AN OVERHAUL?

If you are happy with your programming methodology the “Stop and Go” or “Overlap” will more than likely be your go to options.  If you sense the need for a fundamental change in direction you may consider the “Stop and Go” or “Intentional Interim.”

Getting key stakeholders to agree on this question can prove difficult.  This is why we recommend starting the succession planning process as early as possible.  Giving your team enough time to prayerfully evaluate key areas and work through issues is always a good course of action.

The three Process Options referenced above are the Stop and Go, Intentional Interim and Overlap.

Click HERE for a brief description of each.

> Read more from Will.


 Do you need to know more ideas about succession planning for your organization? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

Download PDF

Tags: , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Heath

Will Heath

Will Heath is a unique voice on the topic of succession planning. He has served the local church for over 20 years in a variety of ways: serving bi-vocationally, as an Executive Pastor and consultant. His ministry and professional background have afforded him rare, front-row access to succession plans at various stages of development and implementation in the business, ministry and nonprofit community in Dallas, TX. In 2010, Will commissioned (and personally funded) a national survey of 600 pastors on the issue of retirement based transitions. In 2012, he began speaking at conferences and consulting with ministry leaders in the area of succession planning. Will joined the Auxano team in 2015. He leads the initiative to help ministries understand how to effectively navigate seasons of leadership transition. Will lives in the booming metropolis of Murphy, TX with his wife Ali and their two girls. In his spare time, he enjoys coaching high jump for their local summer track club, disc golf (RHBH) and volleyball. In 2014, Will had the honor of being selected to serve as a Board Member for Christar, a missions agency that plants churches in the context of least reached people groups.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.