This Sunday, September 4, will be my final Sunday as Transitional Pastor of Monticello First Baptist Church. We have served this loving congregation in Wayne Co., KY since March, 2015. My longest transitional pastorate to date ending at 18 months.
As I pass the baton to Bro. Mark Helton, a fine pastor and faithful man of God, I am turning over some new lessons I learned in this church that I hadn’t picked up in previous transitional pastorates.
I thought I might share 4 of those lessons.
1. Keep an eye on the financial health of the church. There is a temptation in transitional ministry is to focus exclusively on the people and the preaching leaving the financial side of house to others to keep watch over. This is not a good idea.
The lead pastor, no matter permanent or transitional, has to keep an eye on the financial flow and pacing of the church. This is part of what it means to be a good steward and a wise shepherd. You have to watch the weekly, the monthly, and the annual trends. Any major dips, swings, or abrupt turns must be addressed.
Additionally, there can be strategic steps taken during the transitional period that cannot happen when a pastor arrives. For example, at Monticello FBC, we eliminated a building renovation debt during the transitional period. We also adjusted the yearly budget to be more in line with the weekly giving trends. We also took a hard look at future personnel needs and tried to balance what was needed versus what was financially reasonable.
Because we were in the transitional period, we were able to evaluate these needs while the budget was a little padded as we were not supporting a full-time senior pastor.
2. Elevate different leaders in worship. As a transitional pastor, you might feel you have to preach every Sunday because that’s what you were brought in to do. But actually I have found that you can share the pulpit with great guest speakers, missionaries, lay-leaders, seminarians, and other trusted guests.
You have the freedom that a senior pastor might not have to share the preaching load. As long as you are physically there and have secured someone solid, there isn’t much of a fuss if you are preaching 50 Sundays a year. Especially if you are equipping people from within the church to use their gifts in public teaching and proclamation.
Beyond the pulpit, I have found the transitional period to an excellent opportunity to incorporate others in worship leadership, such as college students, kids, teenagers, outside musicians, testimonials, and mission teams. There is an openness in to involving lots of different people “on stage.”
3. Make pastoral care connections at church. There is no way a transitional pastor can handle pastoral care demands, especially in a situation like mine where I lived 1.5 hours away.
Therefore, I had to make pastoral care a priority while in the building. If someone was sick and after they recover are able to make it to church, you make a bee-line to check on them. If someone has experience grief or loss and you’re able to go to the funeral, the next time they are back in church you spend extra time with them. Sit down with them and give them the same time you would have given at the hospital.
I have found that most people understand your limits and recognize that you can’t be everywhere all the time. Still, if you can, give them your undivided attention at church when they return so they know they are loved and thought of.
4. Create collaboration pathways that the new pastor can immediately use. When you are transitional and living a good distance away, you have to rely on numerous collaboration tools to keep the ministry going.
I use email, text, Remind, Slack, Planning Center Online, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Each one of these tools allowed me to plan, communication, and collaborate with my volunteers without meetings. This is out of necessity.
The key is to transfer these pathways to the new pastor so that he can continue using them in the early days of his ministry.
There is a tendency for ministry volunteers to press pause when a new pastor arrives waiting to see what he wants, likes, and needs. The problem is that this pause slows down the momentum of the ministry.
With these collaboration tools already in place, the new pastor can immediately see who the volunteer teams are, what they have been up to in the past 6-12 months, and what is the horizon.
In other words, they don’t have to wait to get their teams and communication channels in place. They can bring their vision and direction to a good working system from day one.
These four lessons are now added to my ever-growing list of practical lessons in transitional ministry. To read more, select these topics.