Transitioning Leadership

Handling church transitions- a short overview of the big issues

By Grant Crawford | Audio available at footer of this article. 

Introductory comments

As a general rule, if a son in the house takes over it’s less stressful than an outsider coming in. Examples include David compared to Solomon. Acts 14 implies that laying on of hands is an existing practice. Outsiders are not ‘less Godly’, they simply present different challenges.

Like changing gear in a big truck, it’s a vulnerable time. Be firm, be deliberate and make every effort to do it well.

Leadership change happens for numerous reasons, in this instance we are assuming “sin” is not the cause.

Regarding the exiting lead elder
  • Hear God – many don’t prepare for life after they leave. Some useful points to go through:
  • Does your wife agree?
  • Do your apostolic fathers agree?
  • Is there supporting prophecy ?
  • Is it best for church?
  • Do you have the peace of Holy Spirit on the decision?
  • Have you done all God called you to do?
  • Is there a replacement?
  • Are there some giants you have to kill before you leave?
  • You may have to deal with the ‘letting go’ of the guy leaving
  • Include the new guy if big decisions are being made just prior to hand over. If possible, no appointment of elders or incurring debt before you leave
  • Talk through finances and expectations
Regarding the incoming elder
  • Include apostolic friends
  • Don’t grasp it before it’s yours to lead.
  • HONOUR the father: financially, in word, in attitude, his wife and family,
  • Include key role players before you tell the church
  • Preach into it :
  • Change
  • Appeal to people’s HEAD, HEART and SPIRIT
  • Love people and be transparent
  • (I heard a shocking example where mercy overtook logic, the outgoing guy said, ‘Things might feel so bad, much like scrambled eggs, but it will all turn out fine in the end after a bit of heat’)
The actual “hand over” meeting
  • Glorify God
  • Look forward
  • Mission in front
  • Nostalgia shouldn’t dominate the day
Other issues to think of
  • Timing : dae facto vs government
  • Role clarity (depends on the condition of the leaving guy, is he OK or is he leaving under a cloud?)
  • Who decides it’s time
  • Who tells the church
  • How long should it take
  • Who decides on successor
  • Role of apostolic fathers
  • Role of ” staying leaders”
  • Role of prophetic ( context and hope, not prescription)
  • Local elder involvement ( to step down or not to step down)
After the transition
  • Stay in contact with and support the ex-leader (visit, 3rd row, perspective)
  • Honour them
  • There is a grace for change with a new leader, pick your issues carefully
  • When you bring a change – remember how the initial decision was made. Don’t dishonour in your zeal to explain a new future.
  • Be weary of violent, unnecessary changes

We hope that this resource blesses you and the way you handle leadership transition in your church. Feel free to print, edit and distribute this document.

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