If you have been a United Methodist for any time at all, you are probably well aware of the season we are heading into – change of appointments. On average one fourth to one third of the UMC pastors move to a new appointment each year. Some of those new appointments are expected and some are not. And, this pertains to both the pastor and the congregation.
Regardless if the change was expected or unexpected, nevertheless, it is change. Change is hard. Change brings with it uncertainty, anxiety, and sometimes even fear. There will be varying degrees of disruption. Then this year, add in the pandemic to the change, and it adds a whole new level of anxiety and uncertainty. How do you transition well in a time of social distancing?
Most change of appointments have been announced by now. Some changes were announced as early as January or February, but some appointment announcements were just made. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, new appointments take effect on July 1st.
Even though we are still a few weeks away from the official change of appointment, there are varying degrees of where you might be in the transition process. Some pastors, staff, and congregations began transitioning right away and some are just beginning. There are times when I have witnessed pastors packing up his/her office three months before they leave! Likewise, I have witnessed congregational leaders who begin to leave the pastor out of leadership conversations as soon as the appointment is announced. Obviously, these are extreme examples, yet they happen more often than you might think.
How we transition out (ending well and saying good-bye) and in (starting strong and saying hello) sets the tone for the next season of ministry. These are extremely important times for pastors, staff, Boards/Councils, and the congregation. This is especially true as we are navigating the church in these uncharted waters during Covid-19 needing to be adaptive thinkers and leaders.
To help with these transitions, here are some resources for your consideration:
Changeover Zone – Think of this time as handing off the baton. Jim Ozier does a great job in helping pastors and churches think about how to do this well in his book: https://www.amazon.com/Changeover-Zone-Successful-Pastoral-Transitions/dp/1501810413
On Boarding – Consider inviting a facilitator to help onboard the senior pastor with their staff and lay leadership. The process accelerates the “starting strong” season by as much as six months! Email me for more information Kay@KayKotan.com
Welcome – Create a warm welcome for the incoming pastor and his/her family. For ideas, check out this list: https://www.churchleadership.com/50-ways/50-ways-to-welcome-a-new-pastor/
IMPACT! Reclaiming the Call to Lay Ministry – Check out Chapter 8 on how lay leadership can best prepare to receive a pastor and connect him/her to the community. http://kayk1.sg-host.com/product/impact/
Besides the resources above, you might also consider a coach to help the pastor, staff, and leaders to, through and beyond the transition. A coach will help you navigate through this time in ways that no one on the inside can. A coach provides an outside, unbiased perspective and insight who can ask powerful questions and lead you to action steps to fill gaps and avoid pot holes in the transition.
Happy and Successful Appointment Season!