The Elephant in the Room

Avoiding the Avoidance of Pastoral Transition

It can take a church years, if not decades, to recover from a failed leadership transition. So much is at stake, you must get it right from the start.

Every pastor is an interim pastor. Succession is the elephant in the room of every church with a leader in his/her mid-50’s or older. The pastor doesn’t want to bring it up because concern that mentioning “succession” will bring it on sooner than they would like.

Likewise, church councils don’t want to bring it up because they don’t want to look like they’re trying to push the pastor out. Thus, the topic is avoided or clumsily discussed.

Vanderbloemen, a church staffing and Christian executive search firm, has identified signs it might be time to start talking about pastoral succession:

1 Members of the church are growing older. Its often been said that a leader attracts people who are about 10 years younger or older than the pastor. IT is true that pastors tend to relate best with those in their phase in life. A younger pastor connects with younger families.

2 The pastor has lost passion or energy. Although there are exceptions, its the nature of growing older. The drive to tackle big problems and go after a big vision just isn’t the typical drive of the older leader.

These are just some of the signs that you should begin the conversation about succession.


Author: mustardseedonline10

Kurt Jacobson is a trained interpretive consultant of Holy Cow! assessments serving churches across WI and beyond. An ordained pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, he served Trinity Lutheran Church, Eau Claire for 28 years. In 2016 he formed Mustard Seed Consulting. Jacobson holds a BA in Business/Hospital Administra on and Organiza onal Communication from Concordia College, Moorhead, MN and a Masters of Divinity degree from Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN. He holds a certificate in Intentional Interim Ministry from the National Association of Lutheran Interim Pastors. He is the author of “Welcoming Grace: Words of Love for All.” In addition, the book “The State of the ELCA” by Russell Crabtree, founder of Holy Cow! includes a chapter detailing the work Kurt did in making Trinity a transformational congregation. He lives near Cumberland, WI.

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