Ministry transition can go really well or really bad. When you approach a transition in ministry, there are two sides you must consider. The first would be the spiritual side. When God begins to work in your heart about transitioning to another ministry or going from an assistant pastor to a Senior pastor, this requires great faith and deep prayer to confirm the direction God is leading you and your family. Every Christian leader understands the importance of the spiritual steps that must be taken before a transition happens. Prayer, fasting, and seeking counsel is all part of the spiritual steps that should be taken to gain clarity for the will of God for your life. I think that Christian leaders excel on this side of transition. I have been in full-time ministry for over 15 years. I have experienced several ministry transitions and witnessed dozens of my friends and fellow ministry leaders go through their own transitions. I have discovered these transitions were clear spiritually but handled very poorly in a practical sense.
For a transition to be successful, it must be handled spiritually and practically with wisdom. Recently I went through an eight-month transition process from being an Assistant Pastor at Rosedale Baptist Church in Baltimore, MD to Senior Pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Ashburn, VA. Looking back, I learned so much about myself and about the value of having a step-by-step intentional plan on the practical side of the traction process. My transition was supported by my Senior Pastor and celebrated at Rosedale and Heritage. I will be talking about how to wisely handle transition through a step-by-step process at the Idea Day Summit 2021, so until then, I wanted to give you ask you one vital question you must process through if you are going to handle any future ministry transition successfully.
Are you “going” or “leaving?”
In ministry transition, this is such an important question to ask. It reveals the foundational motives of why this transition is being considered. I was an Assistant Pastor for fifteen years. There is a level of frustration that is so real and raw at times in an Assistant Pastor position. If you are an Assistant Pastor you know exactly what I am saying, and you understand. If you find yourself considering a transition to another ministry or even a Senior Pastor role because of frustration in your current ministry, then you would be looking for another ministry because you want to leave your current position. I strongly encourage you to consider if this is the right reason to transition? We convince ourselves and sometimes those around us how much better things would be if I led or if I was able to make the decisions. I was there for many years of my ministry life. I was prideful and often questioned the leadership I served. I was frustrated with their decisions or lack of decisions. I thought if I was in a better culture I would have better circumstances. Look, if God is truly calling you to go to another ministry, then you need to follow the call of God, but if you are looking at the "greener grass" to get away from the frustrations, then you will be disappointed when you learn that frustrations are in every ministry. This is a strong statement, but maybe the problem is not “them” maybe the problem is you.
In the last 5 years, God allowed me to work at two incredible ministries under two very different leaders with extremely different leadership styles. Honestly, I dealt with great frustrations in both ministries. I had several hard conversations with both leaders with the hopes that they would see it my way. When they did not listen, I thought I was justified to look for a "better" ministry, a place that would see my value and allow me to lead in the way I wanted to lead. Both leaders were patient with me. They tried to get me to understand their perspective, but I did not want to hear it. I was right, they were wrong, and if they could not be smart enough to understand, then I better find another place that did get it.
Two years ago, Clay Scroggins published a book entitled, “How to Lead When You’re Not In Charge.” I thought this book was the answer to all my ministry frustrations going away. I will learn the art of leading the leader, then I will get the things accomplished I want to get done. As I read the book, I was deeply convicted by the truth that Clay laid out in the book. He talked about the perspective of the leader and the reaction you are building with your Senior Pastor. He asked the question, “When your Senior Pastor sees your name on his cell phone when you call him, what are his honest thoughts about you?” The book talked about how the problem is not them, the problem is you. The deeper I got into the book the more I realized I was considering transition because I wanted to get away from the problems. I realized I was wrong, prideful, and I was the problem. After I read the book, I decided to have the best relationship with the Senior Pastor I could build. I started approaching him with the understanding that I did not have all the context as to why he was making certain decisions. I would often say to myself that if I knew what he knew I would probably do what he did. I stopped or trying to leave because I was frustrated, and decided to stay and grow. I believe God began to work in my life to open up the opportunity for me to go to the church He wanted me to Pastor when I decided not to leave.
So where are you? Are you considering a transition because you want to leave? I am excited to share the practical steps I took with my Senior Pastor and those involved in the process of becoming a Senior Pastor at the Idea Day Summit. We will answer questions about how to approach your Senior Pastor, where to look for a church, how to implement a timeline, and going through an interview process (mine was 5 months long) but before you focus on the “what” of transition, you must settle the “why” of the transition. Are you leaving or are you going?
Link to "How to Lead When You're Not In Charge."
Pastor Steve Miller
Pastor Steve Miller became the Senior Pastor at Heritage on August 23, 2020. He and his wife Becky along with their two boys Marcus and Myles are excited to call Northern Virginia their home. Pastor Steve has been in full-time ministry for over 15 years. He has a positive outlook on life, loves people, and loves being the Pastor of Heritage.