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3 Key Activities For A Church In Transition (or, how to survive your time between pastors)

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This summer has given me a personal view of what happens when transition lingers or seems to have no end.  When I arrived here in Rosenort I just put my head down and worked on what I needed to.  I wrote letters, blogs and spent time with closest family.  This was transition time, transition space and I didn’t need to worry about anyone else.  The people around me had all sorts of plans for my life and I successfully brushed most of that aside too.  Now 9 weeks into a 2 week transition, I think I’m starting to see the light of day and seeing others around me

The Number 1 casualty of a church in transition

People.  A pastor leaves and people get funny, leave, stop working, open old wounds and fight for power.  None of this helps the witness of the church.

In my work with Alpha, I have found that transition is the one overriding reason that churches are not sharing the gospel in their neighbourhoods or with their friends.  

Churches seem to function just fine for about 2 years without a pastor, but during this time people drift away, programs lose momentum and the work of disciple making takes a back seat.  Even after a new pastor is hired, it can take 2-3 years before the new pastor doesn’t feel like he’s still in transition.  But transition doesn’t have to be a dirty word, it can be an opportunity to grow and thrive.

The 3 Journeys we are all on

A labyrinth is an ancient prayer tool used by many faiths around the globe.  Unlike a maze (where the goal is to confuse the seeker) a labyrinth is a twisting path that takes pilgrims on a journey into the centre and back out again.  The journey into the centre is inward and reflective, the centre of the labyrinth is holy space where we share communion with God and on the journey out, we take what we gained in Holy Space to share with our world.  The labyrinth inspired me to consider 3 ongoing activities for a church that doesn’t want to drift through transition.  And while these could be individual activities, the key is to do them together.

1. Inward Journey: Corporate confession
– Keep short accounts and confess sin.  Repair broken relationships.  Refuse to gossip.  Insist on purity in every relationship because you are coming under attack.  Any crack in the armour of the church will be exploited by the enemy.  And think about how blessed a new pastor would be to come to a congregation that was actively resisting sin.
– Confess your gifts and strengths.  Pat each other on the back, call out each other’s gifts and celebrate what you are great at.

2. Holy Space: Corporate Prayer Meetings
– Start evaluating your meetings by how long you are spending before the heavenly throne.  Enjoy His presence, know his voice, pray the promises and declarations of scripture.  If the thought of spending one hour in prayer each week is terrifying, try some of the ideas here.  I’m convinced that the most exciting meeting of the week should be the prayer meeting.  And don’t let church leaders think that the prayer meeting is optional – it’s critical if you want to come out of transition with more momentum.  Every meeting a prayer meeting and every group a prayer group.

3. Outward Journey: Corporate Outreach
– I have yet to meet a missionary who didn’t “hear God” send them out.  The sending out happens in the prayer meetings.  So the natural progression is: meet with God -> get sent out by God -> bring others to meet with God -> be sent out by God…
– In transition times, don’t try to do too much.  Pick one or two corporate projects or programs that you can throw your effort into.  Or invite small groups in the church to be intentional about serving their communities.  Keep it simple.

God is very interested in your church thriving through this transition time.  I am convinced that through the power of the Holy Spirit, your church could become stronger and healthier as a result of this time in transition.

I’d love to hear your stories of church transition – How did you stay on track?  Or did you drift through?

Other posts you might enjoy:

The Best Prayer Meetings

Prayer as the central activity of the church


Author: Robb Massey

I'm a husband, dad, pastor and a coach. I love following Jesus, riding my bike and having fun with my family. We live in wonderful Winnipeg, Manitoba in the prairie heartland of Canada

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