Tag Archives: transition

Beginning the Transition

Recently I posted on my decision to leave as Lead Pastor of Resurrection.   Today I am writing about my decision to train for interim ministry.

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end
Semisonic’s  “Closing Time”

I was introduced to transitions twenty years ago with William Bridges book, Transitions: Making Sense of Life Changes.   Bridges describes every transition as having three parts.

1.       An Ending
2.       An In-between  Period of Confusion/Distress
3.       A new Beginning.

"So long, partner" Woody, Toy Story 3

“So long, partner” Woody, Toy Story 3

Each part needs attention.   For example, right now I am in the midst of an ending as I prepare to leave Resurrection.  Ending always have some element of grief and pain, even when they are chosen endings. Bridges writes “Those who had chosen their transitions tended to minimize the importance of endings, almost as if they felt that to acknowledge that an ending was painful would be to admit that the transition was a mistake.”  Leaving a group of people who you love is hard.


The second part of a transition is often neglected in our instant society.  People and congregations like to rush immediately to the new beginning.   “Let’s call a new pastor as soon as possible!”  Sometimes a congregation is ready to call a new pastor.  Often they are not.

Before rushing to the new beginning, individuals and congregations need to pause and assess where they are and what God is doing.  Bridges calls this time “The Neutral Zone.”   I prefer to call it “The Wilderness Time,” remembering both the wilderness stories of Exodus and Jesus.   The Israelites spent forty years between the time they left slavery in Egypt and prior to their new start in the land of Canaan.  They wandered in the wilderness.  Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness after his baptism. His was a time of intense prayer as to what his ministry would be.

Christ in the Wilderness by Ivan Kramskoy

Christ in the Wilderness by Ivan Kramskoy

And the Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness.  He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. (Mark 1:12-13)

The wilderness period can be an intensely spiritual time because the armor of daily routine and thought are cracked wide open.  The Spirit has new ways to penetrate the hardness of our hearts.   It can also be a time of darkness and temptation, yet such temptations can be points of new wisdom as well, “for angels waited on him.”

Intentional Interim Ministry is for the wilderness time in a congregation’s life.  When a long-tenured pastor leaves, an interim pastor is hired to serve a short contract (6-18 months) to shepherd the congregation through a time of assessment as it prepares to call a new pastor.   These “temporary shepherds” may need to deal with certain issues (past conflict, neglect, staff concerns to name just a few) as well as help the leadership prepare for their next pastor.

I sense a call to this kind of intense but short-duration ministry.  My own prayer life is centered on the phrase, “Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10.  During an interim a congregation needs to be still and discover whose they are.  I believe I have the wisdom, experience, patience and pastoral skills to assist congregations during their transition.  Time will tell.

I will start the specialized training for Intentional Interim Ministry on Monday, October 26.  Prayers appreciated.

Presidents and Leaders

G.W. - Greatest President?

As an American history major in college, I remember a discussion in which we debated who was the greatest president in our history.  Several classmates argued for Abraham Lincoln because he was able to hold the union together during the Civil War.  Others thought Franklin Roosevelt was the greatest because of his leadership during the Great Depression and World War II.  You may want to add a name or two yourself.  I thought then and continue to think that our greatest president was our first, George Washington, for one simple reason.  After two terms he stepped down.

Watching the current turmoil in North Africa as large crowds protest their countries’ long-time leaders, I am thankful that our nation has a rich history of orderly presidential transitions.  George Washington started that tradition when he potentially could have been president for life.  His advisors were advocates for a longer tenure. They feared that the country would break apart without Washington.  But Washington wanted to step down and go back to Mount Vernon.  After eight years he was ready to hand leadership to someone else.

One danger for any leader is to think that your leadership is indispensable for the organization.   That is true in businesses, congregations, colleges and non-profits.  “The organization NEEDS me,” can become an egotistical justification for remaining in a leadership position long past one’s effectiveness.   George Washington showed our nation how one can gracefully step down from high office.  He modeled  a key characteristic of what Jesus described as servant leadership:

 A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest.  But (Jesus) said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors.  But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.” Luke 22: 24-26

What characteristics in your opinion makes a president or leader great?