Central Baptist Church of Southington Connecticut


Planning for Transitions

  • Jim Townsley
  • Jul 30, 2019

The last thing on the mind of a new pastor and church planter is transitioning to the next pastor. It may be many years away or it may be soon. However a transition will be necessary eventually. Some men believe their calling is to start churches with the idea of turning the church over to another pastor when the work is self-supporting. For them their ministry was never intended to be long term. Their intention was to establish the church and eventually install a new pastor that will hopefully be with the church for a long time. Though some have the intention to only start the church and soon turn it over to another man most intend to stay as the pastor for a long time. Some of these men will stay as the pastor for their entire lives.

But eventually the time for a transition will come and when it occurs it must be planned and carefully implemented. This means that churches must replace their pastor when he resigns, retires, or graduates to heaven. The average church member does not have the knowledge of how to find a pastor or how to know if they’ve found the right one. Guidance by you, the previous pastor, or another trusted preacher can be extremely helpful during this difficult time.

The pastor’s role should include teaching the church how to pray, find and call the right man of God.The preacher should give counsel and guidance to the church family and help them as much as necessary to find the right man to replace him. In many cases this preparation might take place over a period of a few years rather than a few weeks. Sadly there are transitions that do not go well and usually the downfall is poor planning and weak praying. It is unwise for a pastor to give a two week notice and leave the church leaders to locate the next man.

The retiring pastor’s role should be limited to counsel, prayer and suggestions. Ultimately it will be the church’s decision since they will be under the new man’s leadership. If there is a reason the retiring or deceased pastor cannot give counsel a neighboring man or a respected preacher could fill the role of counselor.

The first step of calling a new pastor should be prayer! A church that prays is acknowledging its need of God’s help and it is a reminder that God knows what man does not always know. Therefore soliciting His guidance is a key element in the transition. In addition to prayer it is important to determine what the new potential pastor believes about the Bible and what he believes concerning modern trends. Is his philosophy consistent with the church as a whole? It is fair to ask why he left his previous church and it is also appropriate to question him concerning his family and his finances. Usually the most critical issue is to determine the heart of the prospective preacher. Does he have a heart for your church and community?

Also, the new preacher should share his vision for the church. He may want to change some things that need to be changed and he may want to begin new ministries in the church. An approximate timeline of these changes could prove to be helpful for the leaders of the church to understand where he is headed.

Inviting a man to come and preach is an essential protocol and too often, unfortunately, it is the primary criteria of a call. Calling a man to become the next pastor should never be a popularity contest. His preaching is important because it is a key element of his ministry, however it consumes only about three or four hours of the week. What does he do the rest of the week? Is he a soul winner? Does he care for the sick and elderly? Does he plan and organize well? Is he a hard worker? All of these questions and more can be determined by questioning the candidate and his wife. Every reference should be followed up carefully. The references on his resume can usually answer more specific questions about him that may help confirm or deny his application. The process of calling a new pastor should be guided by the church constitution. The constitution must be followed judiciously. When transitions come they must be planned carefully and prayerfully. With God’s help your transition can go forward in a positive manner.