Shady Acres — The First New Shepherds Orientation Workshop in an Interim Church

9th New Shepherds Orientation Workshop

We met at the Drury Inn in Sikeston, Missouri December 8-10 for the 9th New Shepherds Orientation Workshop. In other workshops, I came to a church knowing little about them except email correspondence. I have been with Shady Acres nine months. We are beginning to get acquainted.

We knew each other well enough to discuss specific applications of principles to this congregation.

Elders, wives, and ministers who participated in the twelve-hour workshop were: Nathan and Chelsea Foster, Patrick Hogan, Steve and Katy Howell, Lewis and Carolyn Lineberry, James and Jeanie Price, Steve and Sandy Turnbow, Jerrie and Gail Barber.

Each workshop is different. This group had heard many of my stories. We added new modules this weekend which will continue in future meetings.

Breakout sessions continue to be popular with the groups.


Some of the topics the groups discussed were:

  • What is a disappointment or time of pain you’ve experienced in your leadership and how have you handled this?
  • If the other person(s) were here, how would they tell their side?
  • What have you learned from this?
  • What are some changes and challenges you have encountered since your husband became an elder or preacher?
One of the things that continues to impress me is the stress that comes to elders’ wives when their husbands are ordained and begin their service. Click To Tweet

I’ve been asked why wives are invited to take part in a shepherds workshop. Here’s my answer.

Many (I) think 1 Timothy 3:11 refers to elders’ wives as well as deacons’ wives. As with elders’ qualities, we’re all works in progress. We talk about roles, responses to criticism to them and their husbands, and how to grow in the opportunity they’ve been given.

My observations about wives being in the workshop:

  • A man can be an ineffective elder with or without a good wife.
  • A man cannot be an effective elder without a sympathetic, supporting, and effective elder’s wife.
  • Thank you for being here.
A man cannot be an effective elder without a sympathetic, supporting, and effective elder’s wife. Click To Tweet

Sunday morning, as in all recent New Shepherds Orientation Workshops, I speak to a combined Sunday morning Bible class on Leadership and Grace: Leadership is a Gift—Not a Grind.

At worship time, I discuss, What Do You Talk About at Your Last Elders’ Meeting? from Acts 20. The men share a “mustard seed” they found in the workshop.

I have three workshops scheduled in the Spring.

As of today, I have openings in 2018 for one workshop in October and another in November. For questions, send me an email at or give me a call at (615) 584-0512.

What suggestions or questions do you have about leadership training?

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If You Appoint a New Elder, I’ll Quit!

and that transition will happen whether I do it or not

I’ve been resigning since 1988. I’d been in Dalton, Georgia, eleven years. I was looking for another place to preach. I talked with sixteen congregations. Eight of the sixteen churches had released their preachers. In each of the eight congregations where the preacher was moving without being self-motivated, they had appointed new elders within two years or less.

I reflected. That’s not the first time I’d heard of that.

Sometimes the older elders had been considering it. When new shepherds come on board, the seasoned overseers communicate their burden with the new men, “Brethren, we want to share something that’s heavy on our hearts. We’ve been thinking for some time a change of preachers may be just what this church needs to get it going again. What do you all think?”

Generally, the newly ordained bishops are apprehensive about their responsibilities and reply, “Brethren, you certainly know better than us. We’ll cooperate with whatever you think.”

One of the interesting twists to this discussion was when one of the brothers who introduced the topic continued, “We’ll write the letter. We’ll all sign it. We’ll let one of the new men read it to the church Sunday morning because you read better than we do.”

I talked to the man who read the letter on more than one occasion about his learning experience.

Many of the preacher’s friends forgot who signed the letter. Everyone remembered who read it. Click To Tweet

They weren’t happy.

Another situation — new elders may come with the agenda that it’s time for a preacher change. Click To Tweet

Often there is non-verbal communication at first:

  1. The elders begin to exclude the preacher from their meetings.
  2. There is a salary reduction, no raise, or less of a raise than in the past.
  3. New requirements are instituted such as keeping a log of all activities, new items on the job description, and a more negative evaluation than in the past.

When these changes come to a seasoned, astute preacher, he sees the handwriting on the wall and hears the Lord calling him to a different work. That process often takes about two years of misery to complete its cycle.

During my move in 1988, I was enjoying my first computer. I decided to take notes and record observations. My “mustard seed” from this process was a decision to resign each time one or more elders were added in the congregation where I was preaching.

The opportunity came in 1995. On Father’s Day, two of the three elders resigned. We were without an eldership. We appointed four new elders November 19. None of them had ever served before. On the Wednesday night before they were ordained on Sunday, I talked with them: “I appreciate your willingness to accept leadership of this church at this critical time. One of the first decisions I want you to make is who’s going to be the preacher for this church. I’m resigning. It wouldn’t be right to impose myself on you. None of you were elders when I came. Different elderships have different ideas of who and what a preacher should be. I’ll bring you a letter of resignation.

“I would like to apply to be the next preacher for Berry’s Chapel. I love the church and like the people. But, you have my resignation. It was my idea — not yours. If you think in two or three years you want to change preachers but don’t want to upset the people now, let’s do it now. They’re already upset. Please let me know when you decide.”

Not long after they were appointed, we met and they asked me to be the preacher for Berry’s Chapel. We discussed my job description, contract, and our relationship. We recorded our agreements, signed them, and distributed copies to each person in the group.

Three years later, another elder was added to the group. I resigned again.

A few years later, we added three more elders. The first leadership meeting with the new elders, someone said, “This is Jerrie’s night to resign.” He was correct. I meant each resignation.

During one of my interims, a new elder was added. The next meeting of the elders and preachers I turned in my written resignation along with a request to finish the interim. They asked me to stay. The new group of elders and I discussed our relationship and how we would work with each other.

In every situation, I would have cooperated in every way if they had wanted to change preachers. If that is the wisdom of the elders, there is no point in aggravating each other two years, ending in anger and frustration.

There’s a new relationship each time the group changes. Click To Tweet

We can acknowledge it, discuss it, and consider how we can or cannot work together and proceed according to the wisdom God gives us from those prayers and discussions. Or we can silently watch the group change three or four times over several years assuming everything is the same because I have a contract with a group of men who are no longer here and wonder what happened.

Here is the substance of the resignation letter:

Since we have a new eldership, I submit my resignation as the interim preacher for this congregation. This is a different eldership from the one that selected me a year ago. I think each eldership should select a preacher that works best with them. Should you choose to accept this resignation, I will cooperate with you in every way. This is my idea.

I would like to apply for the position of interim minister working with the new eldership. Gail and I have enjoyed our time here and we have learned to love and appreciate you. I have never worked with a more cooperative eldership and congregation.

Please let me know when you decide. I will cooperate either way.

The general rule is that family rules are unconscious, unspoken, but understood. I think it’s better to think about our rules and relationships, discuss them, and know what to expect of each other.

My choice to encourage that discussion has been to resign as the preacher, apply for the new relationship, and respect the choice of the eldership.

How have you handled transitions in elder-preacher relationships?

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Releasing Your Preacher and Quickly Replacing Him

how often do you want to enjoy a preacher search?

A few months ago, within a short time, I received two emails from good elder friends. One had, and the other was about to release his preacher and start the selection process. Each asked for men to contact for their next preacher. Here’s the email I sent:


  1. When will your preacher be informed of his dismissal?
  2. Will Sunday be his goodbye sermon?
  3. Have you considered that quickly getting a new preacher gives you a high probability of having an unintentional interim?

Here’s what I’ve observed in fifty-five years of ministry, by following a long-tenured preacher, and working with congregations in intentional interim ministry for nine years:

The general rule is after a long ministry (five years or more) a church will have an interim minister — either an intentional or unintentional minister. The next preacher will stay a short time. If he is an unintentional interim (he thought he was coming for a settled ministry), it will be a time of misery. He’ll be compared to the previous preacher. He’ll not be like the previous preacher. It’ll be an impossible job description.

I’ve served both as an intentional and an unintentional interim. I can assure you intentional is much preferred. The five most depressing years of my fifty-five years of preaching were following a preacher who stayed a long time and was released by the elders — not to his desire and a large part of the congregation. The congregation was stuck in grief, confusion, and resentment. I bore the brunt of something I had nothing to do with except I happened to be the next preacher. It’s now worth it. I had an opportunity to experience what I’d read in books about being a preacher following a long ministry. But the pain was real and sustained while I was learning the lesson.

People are often concerned about the widow or widower who starts dating after the sudden death of a spouse. People aren’t machines.
[tweetthis]For a good new relationship, there needs to be a time of grieving over the past relationship.[/tweetthis]

See two blog posts relating to the interim concept:

  1. How Long Will it Take?
  2. How Can We Improve Without Changing?

The rule of thumb is there should be one month of interim ministry for each year of ministry of the previous preacher.

My advice for preacher friends who follow a long-term preacher with no intentional interim period: “You need to understand part of your job description is being unfavorably compared to the previous preacher in preaching, teaching, dress, visitation, name memory, and the way he related to people. It’ll be done repeatedly for ten years. If you can endure that for ten years, it’ll get slightly better during the next five years.”

There are exceptions to the rule. But from my experience, it’s the rule:

[tweetthis]The preacher who quickly follows a long-term preacher will have a short and painful tenure.[/tweetthis]

One of my most productive interims in the past nine years was with a congregation who tried the immediate replacement plan with two preachers following the retirement of their long-term preacher. After much pain, and a split, they decided an interim was worth the time and money. I worked with them twenty-three months. They now have a good preacher. They are at peace and reaching their community.

When you get ready to look for a preacher, Don Viar has the best material I’ve read on the preacher search. Note this post on his website: Sometimes an Interim Is Better Than a Hire.

Don has other resources that can be helpful:

When you get ready for the search, his book has a good plan: The Search Committee Handbook.

Please pray, think, and look at options before you immediately do what you’ve always done.

Here’s more information on the interim concept and process: Between Preachers Blog.

What have you found helpful during a preacher transition?

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When a Preacher Is Older Than the Elders

what happens when age relationships shift?

Preacher: “I’m ten years older and have been preaching all my life, and he’s trying to tell me what to do.” Elder: “Our preacher doesn’t respect the elders. He’s older and thinks he should tell us how to lead the church.”

I’ve experienced and observed this for several decades: a changing attitude and relationship of some preachers and their elders when the preacher becomes older than the shepherds in the congregation.

I understand the change. When I was younger, I related to elders as father figures because of their age and authority. I wanted to please. I didn’t want to disagree. I was reluctant to discuss money. I was so hesitant I rejected my first raise.

The summer I was thirty-seven, I began to talk with elders as adult to adult. I lost some fear. I was able to say what I thought and felt. I asked for what I wanted. When I had a different idea, I gained the courage to share it.

There may be a danger at this point of over-compensating.

When a preacher becomes elder (older than some or all of the elders), the dynamic changes. Preachers and elders would do well to talk about this before it happens. How will each adapt to this new relationship?

[tweetthis]I was reluctant to discuss money. I was so hesitant I rejected my first raise.[/tweetthis]

Questions for Preachers

  1. Can you respect men younger than you who have oversight of you and others?
  2. If you’re a wise preacher, discuss with those who are younger how you’ll relate to the age difference.
  3. Did you talk the younger elder into considering the appointment?
  4. Have you taught and mentored this man to help him grow to where he is today?
  5. Can you submit to his leadership even though you are older?
  6. Will you count on your younger friend, mentee, to follow your lead, respect your age and experience, and favor your ideas and desires? You may be disappointed.
[tweetthis]Preacher, have you taught and mentored this man? Can you submit to his leadership even though you’re older?[/tweetthis]

Questions for Elders

  1. Do you feel intimidated by the preacher because of his education, experience, or Bible knowledge?
  2. Do you feel superior to your preacher because of your education, finances, experience in certain areas, or Bible knowledge?
  3. Will you discuss this possible tension before you are appointed, after you are appointed, or wait to see if problems occur and deal with it (or not deal with them) then?
  4. Do you look forward to being “in charge” of the preacher because of past disagreements or resentment?
  5. Do you plan to improve or remove the preacher after you become an elder?
  6. Or, will you defer to the preacher the position of pastor and bishop? Will you look to him for most of the visiting, counseling, reclaiming lost sheep, and directing most of the programs of the congregation? Is your idea of shepherding the sheep being sure the preacher is shepherding the sheep? How will you deal with the vacuum when that preacher moves, becomes disabled, or dies? For more on this, read: When Your Preacher Becomes THE Pastor.
[tweetthis]Future elder, do you look forward to being “in charge” of the preacher because of past disagreements or resentment?[/tweetthis]

Observations for Elders and Preachers

  1. Your relationship will leak to the congregation. If there is toxic tension, the members will choose sides.
  2. If you (elder or preacher) are stronger and you’re sure of it, you have a responsibility to follow Jesus in bearing with the failings of the weak (Romans 15:1-3). The strong one may be both — elder and preacher. I’ve met few or less, preachers or elders who thought they were weaker than the other.
  3. Have mutual care and respect for each other. Keep current with your likes, dislikes, irritations, and appreciation.
  4. Have an eldership funeral when new elders are appointed. When one or more elders are added or subtracted, there is a new eldership. Recognize that. Talk about it. Review and renegotiate the rules.
  5. Aim for a Paul-elder relationship of Acts 20.
  6.  Stay with the word. Acts 20:32
  7.  Remember Jesus’ words. Acts 20:35
  8.  Stay connected with the leadership team through prayer (Acts 20:36), expressing emotions as well as facts (Acts 20:37), and walk with brethren (team members) through life’s changes (Acts 20:38).

I’ve had that relationship with most shepherds during my ministry. It was pleasant and encouraging. I felt connected, secure, and supported. The congregation and others saw our mutual respect and cooperation.

How have you dealt with changing dynamics in elder-preacher relationships?
Please comment below:

When to Leave…Before You Go (2012)

Full title:
When to Leave: How to Know It’s Time to Move On (Before You Stay Way Too Long)…Before You Go: A Few Sneaky-Good Questions Every Minister Must Answer Before Moving to a New Church

A classic — getting a peek into the mind of a moving preacher.

This book is requested outside reading for elders and search teams where I work as an interim.

I recommend it for preachers considering, looking, or having to move. It gives much of “the rest of the story” that is rarely discussed in the interview process. Yet, these issues will determine much of the fit and good/bad results of the new preacher-church relationship.

This book is only available in Kindle format. Kindle apps are available for Mac, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Android phone and tablet, Kindle Cloud Reader, PC , Windows Phone, Samsung, BlackBerry, and WebOS.

Sample “Mustard Seeds”

I know how easy it is for both the church and the prospective minister to emerge from a search process with unrealistic expectations of each other. The best way to clarify expectations is to ask good questions.  This doesn’t always happen because some ministers show up at the interview wanting the job so badly they subconsciously avoid the best (and hardest) questions. Some young ministers want to ask the right questions, but lack the experience to know what to ask (Kindle Locations 954–957).

Most churches deceive themselves about how healthy they are.  Most ministers deceive themselves about how capable they are. Too many interviews boil down to two self-deceived parties trying to convince each other of how much they can accomplish if they work together (Kindle Locations 970–972).

Helpful hint: If a group tells you they don’t have a leader, the one who makes the strongest case for not having a leader is probably the leader (Kindle Locations 1252–1253).

Assuming that the search team is taking the job description seriously, it might be a good idea to sit down with them and ask them what motivated the inclusion of any idiosyncratic details. It won’t take long to figure out how much of the new job description can be summarized into one bullet point: Don’t be like our last preacher (Kindle Locations 1316–1318)!

When a Preacher Fires the Church

what a preacher who is leaving can do to make a good transition

I talk to many preachers who’ve been relieved of their preaching responsibilities. From their experience and mine (The Best Day to Fire Your Preacher; 3 Ways I Helped Get Myself Fired), I know it’s a painful time. I remember the loneliness and helplessness of that experience. I’ve stayed in contact with friends for several months as they’ve worked through their transitions.  Many preachers feel they’ve been treated unfairly and unchristian. I think that’s possible.


However, I encourage preachers to apply Matthew 7:12, the Golden Rule, when they fire the congregation. When a preacher leaves to go to another church, he fires the church. The preacher should have the same sensitivity in dismissing the church as he would like elders to have with him should they decide to let him go.[tweetthis]When a preacher leaves to go to another church, he fires the church.[/tweetthis]

Suggestions for a Preacher Firing the Church

  1. Be truthful but not cruel with elders about why you’re leaving. If you have a better opportunity, more pay, and greater challenges, tell them. If there are circumstances you think are unscriptural or unhealthy, explain in a kind way.
  2. Plan enough time to exit well. I like three months in most situations. The elders and I announced my resignation three years ahead of my departure from Berry’s Chapel. This gave us time for a good transition. Gail and I set aside the last twenty months to visit with each family to say good-bye. The church didn’t lose momentum. They raised $1,000,000.00 to build a new education wing a month after our retirement. We had a good eldership and a loving and supportive congregation. The effectiveness of the church wasn’t dependent on me being the preacher.
  3. Leave with good relationships. I don’t remember where I first read this, but I’ve used it as a template for leaving any individual or group:  Five Tasks of Dying
    1. Forgive me.
    2. I forgive you.
    3. Thank you.
    4. I love you.
    5. Good-bye.
  4. Finish your work. Plan for groups and projects to complete before you leave or have people in place who will continue.
  5. Cooperate with brethren who want to have a going away event and express your appreciation to them. I’ve been surprised at preachers who decline that opportunity. Some say, “I don’t need it. I’m uncomfortable with that. I’d rather just leave when I’m finished.” My reply: it’s not all about you. You may not want it, but others in the church may need a time to formally say, “Good-bye.” Some funeral directors say at death it’s good to have a time of visitation with the body present and viewed. I think there’s something to that.
  6. Prepare information for the next preacher. A directory, your keys to the building, and any information the new preacher will need would be helpful. Writing a letter of how you’ve been blessed by working with this church and a blessing for the new preacher and his relationship with these people would be encouraging.
  7. Be honest and helpful when prospective preachers call. I haven’t contacted men who were considering the work where I left, but I’ve cooperated when they called for information. When I’ve done this in evaluating possible congregations where I might work, I like to end with the question, “If I were in your place and you were in mine, what would you want me to tell you?” (Matthew 7:12, NKJV).[tweetthis]Some funeral directors say at death it’s good to have a time of visitation with the body present and viewed.[/tweetthis]

There are many things a preacher can do to be helpful to the church he’s leaving and to the preacher who will follow. Two scriptures come to mind:

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18).

Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12).

The best time to talk about this is years before it happens. Elders, deacons, preachers, and other leaders can discuss and make an agreement about how they’re going to leave before they start and review it from time to time (once a year?). Jesus prepared His disciples for His departure by discussing it repeatedly (Matthew 16:21). I know of no better example.

What have you done, wish you had done, or wish a preacher had done to make a better transition in leaving a congregation?
Please comment below:

The Search Committee Handbook: The Step-by-Step Guide to Hiring Your Next Minister, (Cookeville, Tennessee: Ecclesia Services, LLC, 2015)

I’ve read more than 20 books on preacher selection and transition. I usually select 6 of the best and distribute those to the group searching for a new preacher. At the training session for the search, I ask each person to share a “mustard seed” from the book they read.

This time, I bought The Search Committee Handbook, by Don Viar and gave to each member of the search committee. It has the best thought-out and comprehensive plan I’ve seen.

Here are the contents:

Section I — The Planning Phase

Chapter 1 — Establish a Vision

Chapter 2 — Form a Search Committee

Chapter 3 — Initial Committee Meeting

Chapter 4 — Planning Wrap-up

Section II — The Development Phase

Chapter 5 — Creating a Candidate Pool

Chapter 6 — Initial Candidate Contact

Section III — Selection Phase

Chapter 7 — Round 1 — Initial Selection

Chapter 8 — Round 2 — Remote Interviews

Chapter 9 — Round 3 — In-Depth Review

Chapter 10 — Round 4 — In-Person Interviews

Chapter 11 — Nomination

Chapter 12 — Engaging the Elders

Chapter 13 — Congregational Visit

Chapter 14 — The Offer

Section V — The On-Boarding Phase

Chapter 15 — Relocation Support Plan

Chapter 16 — Startup

If you are considering adding a full-time or part-time minister to the church staff, I recommend The Search Committee Handbook, by Don Viar.

What resources have you found for helping in the search for a new preacher?
Please comment below:

Buying a Tombstone…

…and other uncomfortable topics

I’m shopping for 2 items: an Apple watch and a tombstone. One seems to be more exciting than the other. However, I want to buy both. With the watch, I look forward to more enjoyable runs, sending and receiving messages, checking on news and weather, and looking at emails. With the tombstone, I’m reminded I won’t be alive another 71 years. I need to take care of details now.

Gail and I planned our funerals several years ago. We shopped for caskets, listed songs and pallbearers, and made other suggestions. Now we want to buy a tombstone and have it set.

Why? I think it’ll be helpful to us and our family to discuss the next phase of life — death. At our monthly business meetings of , I’ve started asking my son, Jerrie Wayne, “What do I need to do to make it easier for you to operate when I’m gone?”. Last month, we talked about user IDs and passwords to important websites.

Just as it’s uncomfortable for some to discuss their funeral and where they’ll be buried, I’ve observed preachers and elders rarely discuss how they’re going to leave their roles.

My, friend, Jeff Smith, replied to my last blog:

Jerry, I’ve learned from you and others that preparing to leave is as important as choosing who comes. In my case, I am 6 years from retiring from my current status, and will probably move closer to one of the boys. I have spoken this to my “inner circle”. The questions and or fears I have are these, 1) Will I have the courage to leave a town I’ve been in for over 26 years? 2) Who will replace me? [ In my opinion, he cannot be far “left” or “right” he must be in the middle.] 3) What will I do with the sense of abandonment I already feel just thinking about leaving. [I still have a little “savior” complex in me] Perhaps from your experience you could write a future article that goes into some of these things. I confess, “leaving” is a tender topic for me.

Jeff’s doing things I think are important about preparing to leave:

  1. He’s discussed it with his “inner circle.” He started early.
  2. He’s aware of his resistance to talking about a painful subject. Confession frees me to do what I resist. I’m releasing what I’ve been hiding.
  3. He’s labeled his fears and questions. Now he can work on each, decide what’s in his control, what isn’t, work on what he should, and let the rest die — shop for a tombstone, have a funeral.
  4. He’s confessed his “little savior complex.” I’ve heard more than one preacher state, “If I were to leave, this church would fall apart.” I can identify with all these after making a transition from “full-time preaching” to interim ministry in the Spring of 2007.[tweetthis]I’ve heard more than one preacher state, “If I were to leave, this church would fall apart.”[/tweetthis]

My shepherds at Berry’s Chapel asked for more definition about 4 years before I left. Before I came, I discussed with the previous elders my desire to do interim ministry. When new elders were appointed in 1995, I informed them of my intention to leave Berry’s Chapel to work as an interim minister at some point. Their statement was I could stay as long as I liked, but when I had an idea of the date, they’d like to know. They said, “Your contract calls for 90 days notice. We want longer to make a smooth transition.”

My first response to the approach was hurt. Even though I initiated the subject 10 years earlier, I thought I’d bring it up when I got ready.

  1. How will they make it without me and why would they want to?
  2. What if nobody wants me to work with them as an interim minister?
  3. Will finances work out?

Within a short time, Gail and I discussed our departure and came back with the suggestion of April 2007. We announced it to the congregation in June 2004. Our departure was smooth and encouraging. I appreciate the elders and the congregation for Apple Watchmaking our time enjoyable and our leaving as painless as death can be. I’d rather shop for an Apple watch than a tombstone. The timing was great. We’ve enjoyed 9 years of interim ministry and hope for more.

My Suggestions

  1. Shepherds and preachers, discuss this process at the beginning of the relationship — before the new preacher delivers his first sermon. It’s easier to talk about before marriage and honeymoon than after the first or fortieth “family fuss.”
  2. Discuss how long the elders and preacher want the next preacher to stay and how you’d like to end this relationship. This is especially helpful when the church has a rule that they change preachers every 5 years but don’t share the family rule until 4 years and 9 months after he starts. Will you give each other adequate notice? Will the preacher leave peacefully, even if he’s disappointed and doesn’t agree with the elders’ decision? Will the elders be as wise when they decide it’s time for the preacher to leave as they are at the invitation to begin the work? Will you give each other time to work through the grief of the congregation, the preacher, and his family on the preacher’s departure?
  3. Discuss in detail how you plan to prepare financially for the time when the preacher is unable or chooses not to be a full-time preacher. Incentives of matching retirement funds would be one way to do this. Discuss and encourage this often.
  4. Return to this discussion at least once a year and update expectations. There is less stress and emotion when the casket is selected months or years before death than the day after death.[tweetthis]There is less stress and emotion when the casket is selected months or years before death than the day after death.[/tweetthis]
  5. Plan for the preacher to take a sabbatical 7 years before his transition. I plan to write more about sabbaticals for preachers, elders, and others in a later post. This gives the preacher an opportunity to experiment with retirement and the congregation an opportunity to experience functioning without the regular preacher.
  6. Have a discussion of these issues every time the eldership changes: when one or more elders leave the eldership or when one or more are added. There’s an assumption things will continue as before, especially if you have a contract. Assuming isn’t good communication. You have a different eldership. They didn’t develop and sign the contract.

Jesus is an example of how to prepare for leaving: “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (Matthew 16:21, NKJV). When He brought up the subject and repeated it several times, they were afraid, disputed about who would be the greatest in the kingdom, and declined to discuss it further. But He continued to repeat the reality.

Shopping for a tombstone doesn’t evoke the most enjoyable feelings. But it’s better than leaving for others what I need to be doing about getting ready to die.

What are you doing to make a good transition?
Please comment below:

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]

4 Reasons Elders Do the Work of Deacons

4 ways to transition to shepherding

During a gospel meeting, I watched an elder work hard for hours on one of the air conditioners at the building. I asked the preacher if they had a deacon whose ministry was the upkeep of the building.  He said they did. “Why doesn’t the elder let him, encourage him, hold him responsible?”, I asked.  The preacher replied, “It is easier to work with air conditioners than it is to work with people.”[tweetthis]It’s easier to work with air conditioners than it is to work with people.[/tweetthis]

That’s one of the best explanations of the missing of roles in church leadership I’ve heard.

Why do elders often do the work of deacons instead of serving as shepherds?[tweetthis]Why do elders often do the work of deacons instead of serving as shepherds?[/tweetthis]

  1. A misunderstanding of the role of shepherd.  Because of a lack of good role models, many who are in positions of leadership have not seen or thought of an elder being a shepherd.  See previous posts:  How Elders Can Function More as Shepherds than Firefighters and Let Shepherds Shepherd and Deacons Deak .
  2. Elders were often good deacons.  It’s hard to release something you’ve done well and let a novice do less or worse than you did.  So after being ordained as a shepherd, the brother continues to function as a deacon unless he and the other shepherds know better and do better.
  3. They don’t know how to work with people.  Many men have little or no training in dealing with family problems, individual issues, and have no plan to develop a new convert into a mature Christian who grows to become a mentor of others.
  4. Physical, material, quantifiable projects are easier to do, complete, and feel a sense of satisfaction.  If you spend much of your time doing deacons work, you can feel fulfilled that you’ve been busy and exhausted in the Lord’s work.  Working with messy, confused, sinful people is often frustrating.  Favorable results are often years in coming — sometimes never.

It’s good to continue to improve our application of what we learn.  If there continues to be a failure to release the deacon role, it’s because everybody likes it that way.  Some time ago, I suggested to a group of shepherds-elders-still-serving-as-deacons, “The reason you continue to function as deacons while being labeled as shepherds is because at least 7 of the 12 of you like that way. If you didn’t, you would hold each other accountable.”

What can we do to improve?

  1. Realize the transition is difficult.  It’s hard to give up something you enjoy and have done well.
  2. Know that continual training is necessary.  Athletes continue to train.  Doctors continue to practice.  Professionals have continuing education.  Read and discuss books.  Listen to podcasts.  Invite guest resource people.  Practice shepherding regularly.
  3. Talk and pray about the growth process.  Encourage every indication of progress.  Be intentional about doing what God says shepherds are supposed to do.  Have a goal to become more like the Chief Shepherd.  Hold each other accountable.  Evaluate your progress.  Celebrate growth.
  4. Thank God for the grace to do what He wants us to do.  God will enable us to do His will. Thank Him for His generosity.

What have you seen done to encourage elders to be shepherds — not deacons?