On April 27th, 2013 Seedbed will host a web conference called “Your Next Move: Planning for Clergy Transitions.” The conference will be led by Dr. Bob Kaylor, Lead Pastor of Tri-Lakes United Methodist Church in Monument, Colorado, and author of the new Seedbed release, Your Next Move: Effective Leadership Transition in the Local Church. Bob has done extensive research, writing, and teaching on clergy transitions and recently completed his doctoral dissertation on the topic through the Beeson Center at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is a sought-after workshop leader on transitions and Seedbed is excited to bring this learning opportunity to the church.
Read Part 1 of his article on pastoral transitions. Part 2 to come next week.
Part I – (For Pastors) Presenting Yourself
Well, it’s spring—the time when many pastors in the Wesleyan tradition begin waiting for the phone call inviting (or telling) them that they are moving to a new church. Chances are that if you pass a moving van on the road anytime between mid-June and the first of July, there will be a set of John Wesley’s Journals somewhere in a box in the trailer. If a move is happening or about to happen to you in the next several weeks, don’t panic. The first connection between a new pastor and the congregation is the new pastor interview or introduction (depending on your tradition) and today’s post will give you some tips on how to get ready.
If you’re the pastor who is getting ready for an interview or introduction, there are a few key things you can do that will not only set minds of the church’s personnel committee at ease but also help them to get a good picture of your gifts and abilities:
1. Be honest about who you are
One of the key things pastors need to remember when they approach and interview or introduction is that you have the responsibility for giving the congregation (and yourself) the best information that can help them determine whether or not you are a good match to lead their church. The way you do that is by being very clear about your gifts, your theological bent, your style of leadership, your skill set, and anything else you have discerned about the real you. Granted, none of us serves the church that is a match in every area of our giftedness, but being honest up front about your strengths and challenges will help the personnel committee know what they will be getting if you become their pastor.
The old interview model says that you should play up your strengths and dance around your weaknesses. I think churches deserve a more honest assessment of what their pastor does well and what the pastor does less well. It’s counterintuitive, but naming your real weaknesses as well as your strengths is really important to this process. “I work too much” is not a weakness, but a feigned attempt at false humility (a trick that every human resources director on your personnel committee already knows about, by the way). On the other hand, an honest statement like “I’m not a great counselor” states a weakness that a congregation can mitigate with other staff or outsourcing for those who need more professional help. Helping them to know that up front will save a myriad of issues and misunderstandings down the road.
2. Give them a notebook of information
Personnel committee members are anxious about this process and rightly so. The church is looking to them to make a good decision about the new pastor (even if it isn’t always their decision). The new pastor can help the introduction by providing them with a notebook that goes deeper about you than can be gleaned in a couple of hours of conversation. Here are some things to include:
- Audio of at least one of your sermons. The number one concern people have about an incoming clergy is whether or not he or she can preach. Providing a clean video or audio sample on a flash drive (or a website link if your previous church posted sermon audio) can go a long way toward alleviating some of that anxiety.
- A spiritual autobiography. A written biography that highlights the story of your call to ministry is a valuable resource for the committee. That will help them get to know your heart for ministry better than anything else. Limit it to no more than five typed (double-space) pages so that it’s easy to read in one sitting.
- Copies of any publications you have written (books, articles, etc.).
- An up to date resume’.
- DiSC or Meyer’s-Briggs information, which helps those who know about these things interpret your personality and leadership style.
3. Be prepared to demonstrate your spiritual leadership
In many settings, pastors who are being introduced to new churches are asked to lead a devotional during the introduction. I think that’s a great way for a congregation to hear the pastor express himself or herself in a theological/biblical way. Even though this is a short opportunity, pastors should prepare for this like they prepare sermons. Choose a text about new beginnings and talk about how you feel God is in the midst of the process.
4. Come with an outline of a transition plan
The key to a good transition is a good transition plan. Give the committee an outline of the kind of tasks you want to complete with them during the first few months of your tenure. Statistically, the first 90 days of the pastor’s tenure offer the most dangerous possibility for failure or the most hopeful opportunity for creating momentum and moving the church toward the future. To help you begin planning for transition and involving laity in the process, check out my new book Your Best Move which is being published by Seedbed on April 21. On April 27, join us for a Seedbed Web Conference on clergy transitions that is designed for pastors and personnel committees to watch together as you begin making a plan for a good transition.
In Part II we’ll look at the personnel committee’s side of preparing for the new pastor’s interview or introduction.