• Chris Wethman

Transitions to Transformations

PASTORAL TRANSITION

An opportunity to breathe new life into the ministry of congregations.



Transitions are a part of life, filled with both challenge and opportunity. For communities of faith,

transitions are fertile ground for God’s transformational work.


Congregational transitions are incredibly significant in the life of the whole church. They offer a rare opportunity for renewal and a time to reflect on the ministry and future of a congregation in unique ways. Entering the transition process intentionally and thoughtfully allows the Holy Spirit to move and breathe new life into the ministry of your congregation.


The interim – the time between pastors – is an opportunity for a congregation to come together to remember and celebrate the past, assess the needs and gifts of the congregation, and explore opportunities for the future. This period of time not only prepares the way for the next chapter of a congregation’s history, but also allows individuals and the whole community to practice healthy leave-taking, healing old wounds and imagining and creating a ministry that can bless the wider community for future generations. Remember, God specializes in transformations!


TRANSITIONS TO TRANSFORMATIONS

Transitional ministry is not new to the people of God -- the world experiences constant change, transition, and movement. So, it is a good thing that God is not stoic, lethargic, nor immobile! He goes with us through changes, turning them from simple transitions to transformations. His Word transcends every context, moving and bringing forth what a congregation may need.


Scripture is filled with transitional times.

  • Abram and Sarai left their home so that they could live an abundant life.

  • Ruth left all she knew and went with her mother-in-law to a foreign land, taking her future upon herself.

  • John the Baptist was the bridge between hundreds of years of prophetic proclamation about Jesus and the voice of God incarnate walking on earth with us.

  • Saul, once a persecutor of Jesus becomes Paul, author of at least 13 letters of the New Testament.

  • Jesus leads us from death to life, crossing the divide with the transformation of resurrection.

  • Bottom line? Scripture points us to change and transformation.


“Transitions are a reality in the life of religious communities. Clergy come and go. Social, economic, and environmental changes impact religious life, leading missional focus to evolve. Any religious community has the opportunity to utilize a transition time intentionally to encourage corporate renewal, deal with any grief or unresolved issues that arise during the transitional period, reaffirm faith, and prepare for new life and leadership in a way that is proactive and grounded in empirical data rather than reactive to events of the past.” -From the Interim Ministry Network


Congregations in transition may feel as though the myriad of steps of the transition process are like wandering through the wilderness. This is normal, as uncertain, and scary as it might be. The Israelites experienced the wilderness, so did Jonah, so did Jesus. And yet, it is these kinds of experiences in scripture in which God shows up most clearly, most closely, most intimately. And that is true for us, too. These transitional times are not always welcome, but God welcomes us into them so that we can experience God more than before.


We need to keep Jesus at the center of the transition process. Jesus reminds us in the parable of the man who built his house upon the sand a bad foundation leads to a bad outcome. It is important to engage in scripture, to worship together, and to study how God has worked with and for God's people. How is this transition like one in Scripture?


  • Does the congregation need to be reminded, from 1 John 4, that “God is love”?

  • Do they need to hear, “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy”, from Exodus 20?

  • What do they need to hear from the past, so they can move forward well into the future?


By engaging in the transition with this scriptural foundation in mind, congregation leaders allow God to be seen more clearly -- our whole theological purpose. And when we cling to our purpose, we promote health and life -- which is what God desires for us.


Read Scripture, engage in prayer. Dive into personal reflection and community self-study. Learn from the transitions in Scripture, modeling the parts of those stories that draw people closer to God and each other.


One way your Congregation can come together to remember and celebrate the past, assess the needs and gifts of the congregation, and explore opportunities for the future is through a 1-day discovery event – an Appreciative Inquiry summit. This roll-up-the-sleeves event leverages a congregation’s strengths. All relevant stakeholders create an alignment of strengths and take ownership of a process that transforms vision into action. To learn more about a Summit for your faith community, please share your contact information with me.


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