One thing that all pastors know is true is that there is a time for everything. And while some might stay in ministry or with a particular congregation for longer than others, the time to find a successor always comes. It is may not be easy for a church to accept that their beloved pastor is nearing the end of their time with the church, but leaderships need to be prepared for this eventuality. Part of that preparation is knowing how to best identify who can carry the mission of the church forward when a pastor moves.
The first step a church should take when trying to identify a successor is to pray. Prayer is an important step in any decision-making process for a Christian and that’s no less true when it comes to identifying a successor for a church. The church leadership should be spending time praying together and individually, as well as asking the whole church to join them in praying throughout the succession process. Pray before the process begins, pray during the process, and pray for the successor once you’ve found them.
When thinking about who can best carry the mission of your church forward, it is also necessary to take the time to clarify your church’s mission and vision. Church leadership needs to know where it is headed if they wish to find someone to guide them there. Not to mention that the interim time between a pastor stepping down and a new one coming on board is the perfect time to reassess what God is calling your church to do in your community and surrounding areas. Maybe it is time for a new mission and vision or maybe the mission and vision just needs a little tweak. Either way, having your church’s mission clarified will help you identify the best person to come in and lead your church forward.
Another thing to keep in mind when identifying a successor is to ask what unique challenges are facing our church? Even if the pastor who is stepping down from your church has been successful in their time in ministry, the truth is that things change. The challenges that faced your church while your last pastor was leading the church will not be the same challenges your church faces in a new time. Identifying those challenges can help you to understand the kind of person needed to lead your church forward to fulfill the mission of the church.
The last thing a church leadership will want to do when identifying a successor is to come up with a transition plan. This plan can take on many different forms so it is best to tailor it to your individual congregation’s needs. But having that plan will help all parties involved from the pastor who is stepping down, the new pastor coming on board, and even the members who attend every week know what is to be expected. This plan helps remove any confusion and gives everyone a chance to succeed as your church moves forward into the calling God has for you.