I have been on a bit of a break from the blogging world primarily because ministry demands have been very high the last couple months.
In January, I was on a whirlwind tour with the amazing people from LifeWay Kids helping train thousands of VBS leaders and volunteers around the country with stops in NC, TX, and TN.
Then in February, I finished up transitional pastorate No. 7 at the Stanford Baptist Church in Lincoln Co., KY. Finishing strong is so important for any ministry leader, but even moreso for those in transitional ministry. It is the baton-pass you were brought there to help facilitate with effectiveness and efficiency.
Then starting in March (just a couple weeks ago), I began transitional pastorate No. 8 @ the First Baptist Church Monticello (Wayne Co.), KY. I have been there two weeks and we are quickly preparing for Holy Week outreach events and Resurrection Sunday celebrations.
Not to mention, we are in the middle of the spring semester at Campbellsville University and students are everywhere. Jennifer and I are doing pre-marriage counseling for two couples who are getting married soon. It is always wonderful to walk alongside students we so dearly love.
The new transitional pastorate in Monticello has been wide-open from the very start. The people have been so friendly and welcoming to our family. The staff, consisting of a pastor of outreach & missions and a worship leader, have been tremendously helpful to work with. They are “whatever it takes” kind of men, which I love. Personally, because I am a media-tech nerd, I have been so thrilled to work with a full media arts team that makes our worship time colorful and vibrant.
Starting at First Monticello has proven once again this undeniable fact of transitional ministry: “If the church chooses to sit around and wait until the next senior pastor arrives to do anything substantial in ministry, there might not be much for a new pastor to arrive to.”
There are two streams of thought in transitional church ministry: 1) maintain and buy time until the new pastor arrives or 2) move forward boldly as best you can with what you got.
I have been in churches that have practiced both. The “maintain and buy time” churches are not wrong or bad. There are simply choosing to push pause on everything until leadership is reestablished. Usually these churches have some healing to do before they can really move ahead together.
The “move forward boldly” churches feel a sense of urgency to keep momentum alive. They believe God has a purpose and plan for their church no matter who is in the pastor’s study and they want to be about that purpose now.
It is then critical for me, as the transitional pastor, to assess which stream of thought the church is following within the first days. I have to discern which pattern is going to best serve them over this period of time and in doing so, determine my leadership output and speed. Either we are moving slowly and cautiously toward the next pastor or we are moving ahead urgently with their God-given purpose.
For those churches who want to move ahead, my primary task earlier on is to assess resources. I have to attempt to read between the lines, asking probing questions, and have engaging conversations with staff, leadership groups, and key share-holders, trying to determine what resources we really have to work with.
Resources in church life are four-fold: 1) people resources, 2) facility resources, 3) budgetary resources, and 4) on-going ministry resources.
People resources are those leaders, volunteers, talented musicians, artists, technicians, organizers, community leaders, people of influence and skill inside the church. The people resources are my favorite to engage. We must find a way to encourage and spur on these folks to even greater leadership and ministry.
Secondly are facility resources. Some churches have facilities that help them; others have facilities that hurt them. You must gauge that facility to see how it can be maximized for ministry potential. Frankly, some facilities need so much work and maintenance that ministry is better suited outside of the facility than inside.
Third are budgetary resources. During a transitional period, the giving can vary greatly. Usually the longer the transition, the more the budget begins to struggle. On the converse side is that a senior pastor salary is not being paid allowing for some budgetary flexibility. However the budget is moving, you have to consider what financial resources you have very carefully.
Lastly are on-going ministry resources. Every church has several ministries that are their “bread and butter.” It might be kids ministry. It might be missions. It might be music. It might be disaster relief.
As a transitional pastor, I have to find the ministry that taps into the DNA of the church and pour fuel on the fire. Whatever that ministry is, its fire cannot die out. You should publicly praise the leaders of that ministry. Cheer-lead for them to grow and stretch even in a transitional time. Possibly put more people and budgetary resources behind that one ministry so they know what they are doing really matters and is important to the life of the church.
Assessing resources is paramount in transitional ministry. Your time with the church might not be long, however, your leadership impact can potentially be huge.
There is nothing more attractive to a prospective pastor than a church who is not waiting for him to arrive, but are choosing to press forward in the purpose God has called them to do.