Next: pastoral succession that works (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014)

Preachers, when do you plan to leave the church you are serving?  How do you plan to leave?  What are your plans when you are 60+ (and earlier) when most churches no longer want to discuss their work with you?

Elders, are you discussing the transition after your present preacher leaves even though it may be years in the future?  What plans do you have for transition should your present preacher’s ministry end unexpectedly?

If you are not already discussing that, it’s time to start!

William Vanderbloemen and Warren Bird strongly suggest that this needs to be a topic of regular conversation between a preacher and elders (although they use different terminology).  They have interviewed and studied successions that worked well and those that didn’t.  I found several “mustard seeds” worth considering.

Consider this quote:

Every pastor is an interim pastor.  Few ministers consider that truth.  Few are eager to admit that their time with their present church will one day end.  But ultimately, all pastors are “interim” because the day when a successor takes over will come for everyone in ministry.  Planning for that day of succession may be the biggest leadership task a leader and church will ever face.  It may also be the most important.  There’s an old saying:  “Everyone wants to talk about succession . . . until it’s their own.”  For way too long, the subject of succession has been avoided in the church, in pastors’ gatherings, and even in the pastor’s home.  Those in leadership may not talk about it, but succession happens anyway (Kindle Locations 162-167).

[tweetthis] Preachers, when do you plan to leave the church you are serving?  How do you plan to leave?[/tweetthis] [tweetthis] Elders, are you discussing the transition after your present preacher leaves even though it may be years in the future?[/tweetthis] [tweetthis] Fellow preacher, what are your plans when you are 60+ when most churches no longer want to discuss their work with you?[/tweetthis]

Do You Lead Like Your Daddy?

did you come from the perfect family?

You’ve probably heard the story of the newly married couple.  Both were trying to be the perfect partner.  The husband noticed his wife cut off about 3” of the ham each time she cooked that dish.  He didn’t want to criticize.  But she kept doing it.  He was calculating how much money she was throwing away.

He finally asked, “Honey, why do you cut off the end of each ham you cook?”
Her reply, “My mother taught me to cook and that’s the way she did it.”


“I don’t know.”

The next time they were visiting, she asked her mother why she threw away the end of every ham.  Her mother said, “My mother taught me to cook and that’s the way she did it.”


“I don’t know.”

The next conversation with Grandmother they asked her why she cut off the end of the ham and threw it in the trash.Her answer:  “I had a very small skillet.”

Many family rules had a good reason for their beginning but are not helpful now.

Several years ago, I heard a preacher say, “You may not believe it but I had perfect parents.  I don’t think either one of them ever committed a sin.”  And he was old enough to know better.

[tweetthis]Everything in any home is not always right and every right thing is not always the best. [/tweetthis]

People rarely evaluate how they grew up and what they learned.

Margaret J. Marcuson, in her book, Leaders Who Last:  sustaining yourself and your ministry, makes this observation:

Relationships are both the most delightful and the hardest part of ministry.  We all learn how to relate to others in the family we grow up in.  For better and for worse, this is what feels normal and natural…When we unconsciously act from our family script, our choices are limited.  It tells us how to be angry, or how to hide, or how to protect others.  We learned our lines as soon as we learned to talk (Copyright © 2009 by Margaret J. Marcuson, pages 370-376, Kindle edition).

Think of the power of that.  Each person on the leadership team has been preset to act the way their family taught them — unless they have thought and made choices.  Each person grew up in a different family.  Can you see how we often have conflict?

It might be good to find out why grandma cut off the end of the ham.  I might change my way of acting without showing any disrespect for the family tradition.  But the only way I’ll find out is to learn why my family does what it does.

I’ve found it helpful to talk to family members about what shaped them and through them shaped me.  You might like to try it to see what you learn from those who taught you.

For a list of questions to discuss with family members to improve your understanding of your background, go to this link:  Questions to Learn More About my Family .

What have you learned about your family that has improved your leadership?

Where Do You Find Additional Shepherds?

start looking 30 years before you need them

One of the joys of our last interim in Maury City, Tennessee, was seeing the faith, works, and gratitude of Christian farmers.  They are men and women who operate big businesses.  Farmers study, learn, invest, plant, fertilize, and pray to the Lord to give increase.  After an abundant harvest, they thank Him when He blesses them.  They share their increase.  Sowing and reaping are not just something they read about in the Bible.  They experience it every day.

The same principle works in leadership development.  We are blessed or deprived depending on how well we cooperate with or ignore God’s immutable laws of sowing and reaping.

[tweetthis]Each congregation has the leadership it wants and deserves, leadership it has trained and prayed for.[/tweetthis]

How is that done in a practical way?

One of the best examples I’ve seen was at the Central Church of Christ in Dalton, Georgia, when I worked with them.

Each year, the elders asked the deacons to select a Deacon of the Year.  This was powerful!  The elders weren’t picking their best friend or brother-in-law.  The deacons were selecting one of their own and saying in the selection, “This year, here is the man who exhibits the qualities of a special servant in this congregation in Dalton, Georgia.”

The results of this self-evaluation was announced at a banquet.  The elders, deacons, preachers, and spouses gathered at a restaurant.  A guest speaker was invited who would compliment and challenge.

One or more of the elders expressed appreciation to all the deacons for their service during the previous year.  The climax of the night was the presentation of the Deacon of the Year award.  The Deacon of the Year was presented a plaque and was reminded he was selected by his fellow deacons as one who exhibited excellence in service.

The elders then asked the deacon to return the plaque to them.  They would present it again on Sunday morning before the whole congregation, telling them about the banquet, the Deacon of the Year award, and how this person was selected.  He then took the plaque home to be reminded of how God had blessed him with opportunities to serve and how he had responded with faithfulness.

In addition to the banquet and the plaque being presented twice, this deacon was invited to attend elders’ meetings during the next year.  This Deacon of the Year could add items to the agenda and make comments and suggestions during the elders’ meetings.  He was not an elder but he observed how the elders worked together.  It wasn’t a surprise to me in a few years, when additional shepherds were selected, many of them were men who had been recognized as Deacon of the Year.

Farmers know you don’t plant corn and cotton and expect to gather and pick them in two weeks.  Wise shepherds plan decades before for the leadership of the local church.  I believe each congregation has the leadership it wants and deserves — the leadership it has trained and prayed for.

[tweetthis]We reap what we sow. We reap more than we sow. We reap in proportion to what we sow — in leaders.[/tweetthis]

What suggestions do you have for sowing leadership seeds?