Transition Shifts

Every time there is a transition in an organization’s staff there is a cultural shift that follows, especially if that transition is among senior level staff.  Thankfully, you don’t have to be surprised by this shift and the Lord has already given you and your team what you need to lead well through it!

Before diving in, let’s define culture. Culture is a combination of what we create and what we allow as leaders. (Craig Groeschel) This combination, over time, defines an organization and says “This is how we do things here.” 

What should we expect during this season of shift? How can we prepare for and walk well as a team and organization going forward? 

There are several Major Shifts that take place around a leadership transition…

Gift Shift

Every leader is uniquely gifted by the Holy Spirit. They are simply different than other leaders that may have filled the same or similar roles. In addition, their personality, communication style, leadership strategy and more are different. This is just as God designed it. Their gifting, along with other senior level leaders, will find it’s way into the leadership culture and, in time, the greater culture of the church.

Relational Shift

A healthy culture is simply made up of healthy relationships working in harmony towards a goal. And, how and who a leader relates to others is as different as each God-given personality. Discovering and understanding our shared gifts and personalities will be an important venture into knowing ourselves and one another better relationally.

Who a leader relates to on a more personal level will be different. Not better, not worse. Simply, different. We all have a small circle of interpersonal relationships we can maintain in a healthy way. In other words, close friends. This is just how God designed it.

Jesus had 12 disciples, hung out with 3 of them a little closer (Peter, James and John) and had 1 best friend (John). This is neither right nor wrong, just as it was with the previous leader. We simply need to recognize and flow with this as it naturally develops. 

The new leader will gravitate to a different circle, although every leader should prioritize their staff and lead team (Pastoral Staff, Elders, Team Leaders, etc). I recommend they become like family! 

Vision Shift

The Holy Spirit partners with leaders to communicate and carry out a unique vision for seasons of life and ministry. This big picture reality should also be both anticipated and embraced. 

The new leader should seek to partner with the broader leadership team to pray, process, promote and walk in the new vision as the Spirit reveals it through them and the team they are privileged to lead with. 

Values Shift

Values simply define HOW we do what we do (and don’t). No surprise here… different leaders hold to a different set and level of values. However, there are some values that organizations of greater influence all have in common. When values are clear and defined over time, a culture thrives. When values are not clear, a culture suffers, insider RELATIONSHIPS suffer and with it, influence with outsiders.

It will be very important to pray and process through the values of the incoming leader in partnership with the lead team, and then live them out and promote them until they become part of the culture at the DNA level. Over time, these Values will simply say, “This is how we do things here.” 

Preaching/Teaching Shift

Elijah and Elisha had unique voices. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John each communicated about Jesus’ ministry in very different ways. Paul and Barnabas had differing styles as well. Simply put, leaders communicate in their own God-given voice and way. This will take some getting used to for everyone. What matters is that a leader communicates God’s Word faithfully. 

Still, it will take time for the congregation to adjust. Many will love the new style. Most will be fine with it. A few might leave over it. Accept this as the natural part of the shift in preaching and teaching style.

Organizational/Administrative Shift

This area concerns day-to-day functions of a leader and team. Some leaders have a high organizational gifting, and some not as much. Further, what was simply assumed, delegated or done by one leader administratively, isn’t always the same with another. Some of these functions can and should be anticipated and talked through. However, most will need to be handled with clear communication and a high level of grace as they naturally arise in the course of ministry life. 

How do we navigate Cultural Shift? 

First, we pray about it!

This is more than the “Sunday School” answer. The Holy Spirit can and will help us make inevitable changes throughout the organization, while helping everyone involved to adjust to them. We simply need to stay prayerful about it! Pray specifically for fellow team members and the congregation as they adjust.

Second, we talk about it.

This is about the health of the church we are privileged to lead. With much love and respect for both former, present and new leaders, we simply talk about differences in leadership style and vision and how they affect the church at each level. Again, this is more about culture than it is personality.

Third, we clarify it.

Again, what roles, duties and functions that simply were assumed by and/or of a previous leader, may not be so with a new leader. Many of these cannot be anticipated and will simply be addressed in the day-to-day course of ministry life. However, major responsibilities, direct reports, etc, should be discussed and then affirmed going forward. 

The Holy Spirit will give us everything we need to love and lead well through the shifts that always occur during seasons of leadership transition.

Remember, you simply can’t over communicate as a new leadership culture is established through a season of transition. 

What “shifts” have you experienced during seasons of transition? Let us know in the reply section below!

Want to drill down deeper on leading through transition? Email us at and let’s see how we can partner in a coaching relationship!

3 Truths in Transition

Do you find yourself in a leadership transition in a key ministry area of your church? Are you in an executive level staff transition?

There are realities that come with the territory of transition.

Bringing your staff, lead teams and congregation around these will go a long way towards walking together well going forward.

I recently began walking with my home church through this season. It is the 7th church I’ve had the privilege of coming alongside during a Lead Pastor transition, and I have learned so much along the way! I say this only to highlight the fact that, although each situation is unique, there are some common threads woven through the fabric of each experience.

Here’s some of what we shared together…

As Interim Lead Pastor let me be the first to let you know about a few things that almost always happen in seasons of leadership and church transition. You need to know that these are OK!

For some it’s exciting and they embrace it like a faith adventure. For others it’s just plain scary, and that’s OK!

When it comes to the will of God for the future of TCAB (The Church at Bradenton), we don’t know yet, and THAT’S OK. God knows and that’s enough in this moment. We won’t always be in this season. The Spirit will guide in His time as we worship, fast, pray and seek wise council together.

There will be change over time, and THAT’S OK.

Change either happens to us or through us.

Let’s be a part of it, together! This excites me because another word for change is growth.There can never be growth without change. Healthy things grow (like our kids). See Romans 12:1-3.

People sometimes come and go before, during and after a transition, and THAT’S OK. I WANT EVERYONE TO STAY and get behind what God is doing! Still, this rarely happens.

Don’t overdo trying to talk people in or out of these important decisions. Listen, love and pray for them as the Spirit leads.

Should people decide to leave, they may simply be finding another local church where they can be “all-in” for the Lord. Love them and the church you are serving enough to let them go. That’s a very good thing for everyone!

Again, whether you are facing a change in a strategic area of ministry or in an executive level staff position, you don’t have to be surprised by these realities. You do need to pray and process them well together.

Why are these realities so common?

Join us in our next post as we explore several “Shifts” inherent with leadership transition.

Want to drill down on some of these? Email me at and let’s see how we can connect in a coaching relationship!

What are some of the realities you’ve experienced in your seasons of transition? How did you and your lead teams walk well through them together?

Share some of your experience in the reply section below…

3 Practices of Change Agents

images-3Need to make some changes in your ministry or organization? Leading change begins with living change. Let’s start by taking a long look in the mirror to make sure we are practicing the change we are preaching as leaders. Here are 3 Practices of Change Agents…

1) Personal character. If we want our reach to extend wider, then we’ve got to go deeper. Only the trees with strong roots last when winds of change blow. Could it be that God isn’t granting greater influence because we can’t handle it just yet? Possibly. Regardless of the scope of influence He grants, it is always good to go deeper still.

Jesus had just finished teaching a large crowd by the shore when He gave His disciples a fishing lesson… “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.” (Luke 5:4-7, NIV) 

Seek to go deeper in your study and teaching of God’s Word, in your listening skills that fuel relationships with family, friends and team members. And, go deeper in an often overlooked area that makes all the difference…

2) Private habits. Our private habits mold our personal character. GK Chesterson both reminds and warns us, “Customs are generally unselfish. Habits are nearly always selfish.” What are my personal habits? What are yours? Have they carved out a rut going in the wrong direction for ourselves and those under our influence? Seek to establish habits that promote spiritual, relational, emotional and physical health (i.e. reading, fasting, etc). Be on the lookout for an upcoming post titled, “Holy Habit!” 4 Habits that Shape Solid Leaders.

3) Public challenge. Effective agents of change aren’t afraid to challenge themselves, their team and their organizations in a way that requires sacrificial living and giving. They understand that people will rise to the challenge when the vision is clear and the cause is worthy. Sure, they may fear falling short of their stated goals, but this doesn’t paralyze them into complacency. They take up the challenge for themselves and promote it with a sense of excitement and expectation, painting pictures and sharing examples of how, together, everyone’s investments are changing lives through Christ!

Leading change begins with living change. Let’s begin with a renewed commitment to consistently living as changing, deepening followers of Jesus Christ.

What practices or qualities of change agents would you suggest? Share your thoughts in the Reply section below as part of our ongoing “Small Church, BIG Change” series…

3 Questions to Ask First

images-13Have a BIG decision to make as a team? Here are 3 simple but vital questions to ask first and answer well before you pull the trigger as part of our ongoing “Small Church, BIG Change” series…

1) Is this the right thing? Be honest with yourself, the Lord and your team. This is about motivation. “Why are we doing this?” Do you truly believe this is the right thing to do for the overall health and to forward the vision of your church or organization? Resist the temptation to simply “go with the flow” when you may not be fully in agreement. Don’t. Good executive level leaders don’t want you to and good team leaders shouldn’t. How do you know if it is the “right thing?”

Here are 3 Tests

  • Does it align with God’s Word? This is your #1 concern to discern.
  • What has wise counsel said? Agree together to get some outside advice from those who have “been there, done that.”
  • Who will this help and who will this hurt? This isn’t an option and, no, you aren’t doing this to please or put-off any particular group (at least, you shouldn’t). However, make an honest assessment of who will will and won’t be likely to follow your lead and what that might mean going forward… then do the right thing, anyway. Too many leaders ask, “Who will we lose if we do?” Instead, we should be asking, “Who will we gain if we do?” (Or, “Who won’t we gain if we don’t?”) Any way you ask it, as “fishers of men,” take some more of the focus off the fish you already have in the boat and onto those yet to come on board!

2) Is this the right time? The landscape is littered with the fallout and debris from the meltdown that was the right thing at the wrong time. Jesus modeled this on numerous occasions when He would say things like, “My time has not yet come…” (John 7:8, NIV). And, we are reminded by the Wisdom writer,There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NIV). Talk through the timing of this decision along with the “who, what, when, where and how” of launching it well.

3) Will I love and lead people through it? There is no “cruise control” on this ride. It is your job to lead well start to finish. So, don’t lose sight of the fact that you and your team have been praying this through and processing it together for some time. Those you lead are just hearing about it and even your best supporters may need some processing time before getting as enthusiastic as you are about it. Be prepared to listen well, answer questions, and be sensitive to all those who will be adjusting to this new direction.

You may just be surprised… some you thought would get behind it won’t and some you thought wouldn’t, will! Be prepared to lead in love with one voice and with a firm but gentle touch as people grow through this with you.

These aren’t the only questions to ask nor things to consider when making a BIG decision. However, these 3 questions will go a long way towards making a right decision, at the right time, for the right reasons.

What questions would your recommend asking before making a BIG decision?

Small Church BIG Change: New Normals

imgres-5Hoping to see something or someone move in your ministry in order to influence your community for Christ? For many churches normal is the norm and tradition is traditional. Even the ruts have ruts. The only things that ever change are the creative lengths and ready excuses to ensure that nothing changes. Of course, not all small churches fit this mold. Some have willing spirits and eager hands with growing influence for Christ. Still, if this does sound painfully familiar, here are 4 New Normals for churches that resist change…

1) Change. Start by changing your attitude about change. Repeat after me, “Change is Godly. Change is good. I like change.” (Repeat 3 x’s) Okay, the last one may be a stretch.

Some of you are going to need convincing. Especially for those who see themselves as keepers of all things sanctified, sacred, traditional (or trendy), consider some thematic supports for the concept of change found throughout Scripture…

Dark to light. Old to new. Ashes to beauty. Judgement to mercy. Stranger to friend. Fatherless to adopted. Condemned to forgiven. Law to grace. Slave to free. Blind to seeing. Lame to walking. Night to day and death to life… just to hit the highlights!

The Apostle Paul instructed, Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2, NIV) No doubt about it. Change is good.

Are we talking about change for the sake of change? Why not every once in a while, if nothing but to keep everyone on their toes and one their knees as the new normal works it way thoroughly into the new DNA of your ministry? Are we talking about Biblical principles or orthodoxy? No. The fundamentals of our faith (The Holy Trinity, inerrancy of Scripture, sanctity of marriage as one man, one woman, for life, the sure and soon second coming, etc.) are non-negotiables. The message of the Gospel remains unchanged even as our methods morph in order to meet the culture as Jesus modeled… at the point, place and time of their deepest need.

2) Pace. It’s time to pick it up. You know who you are. If patience is a virtue, you and your church are virtuosos! You make a snail look fast and furious. You are in no danger of violating the axiom of “haste makes waste.” The moment you face something new, something hard, something requiring someone to change in any way, you pull out the old, “Let’s table this so we can pray!” routine. It’s time to get things moving along with a greater sense of purpose. How do you do this? Keep reading…

BONUS CHANGE: Empowerment. Determine to do away with the “death by committee” system. This isn’t so much a “bonus” as it is all but essential to stay agile and keep up with the rate of change in our communities and greater culture. Seek out a coach to guide you towards a leader-led, people-empowered, fully-accountable, and highly mobile structure. This will require both patience and purpose but can be done with limited collateral damage. The question isn’t, “How many will we lose if we change thing?” The right question is, “How many will we fail to reach if we don’t change?” Ask me how to make this change and let’s partner to see this become a new normal for your ministry or organization. Hint: See Acts 6 and read about how appointed leaders empowered new leaders to meet a need and grow the church!

3) Excellence. When was good enough ever really good enough? We may not be able to invest in THE best (yet), but whatever we offer in Jesus’ Name should be OUR best. No, we aren’t talking about perfection. Nothing would ever get done. However, most churches are in no danger of this. We have set our sights way too low and created cultures where mediocre character and average execution is not only tolerated, but encouraged (even guarded) so that no one is offended and everyone is included. It’s time to “raise the bar!”

Some people protest, “You can’t require that. These are volunteers!” Make it clear that there is no difference between the glory God is due and the good that we should be doing based on paid/un-paid status. Besides, all the people God sends your way are “VIP’s” and deserve your best. Establish shared and clearly defined standards and “best practices.” In other words, “This is what (how, why, etc) we do here.” Then, encourage, encourage, encourage and equip people every step of the way.

4) Grace. With all of these new normals, amazing grace will be the order of every minute of every day. Mistakes will be made, everyone’s patience will be tried and it’s about time! You’ve been playing it so safe that you have created a culture where there is little need of practical grace because no one makes any mistakes or ruffles any feathers. The enemy of our souls perceives no threat, no need to do anything but hum a soft lullaby that keeps everyone comfortably sleep walking in religiosity. Instead, create the kind of culture where people are empowered, prayed up and planned for risks are encouraged, and creative ways to fulfill the vision and live out your values are celebrated as you reach your community for Christ.

These “new normals” are only the beginning. What would you suggest needs to be on the list? Share your thoughts in the Reply section below!