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The 22 Most Common Mistakes Made by Church Leadership Teams During a Time of Senior Pastor Transition

(Really, Really Dumb Things that Really Smart Leadership Teams Do!)

  1. Neglecting Prayer as a Priority
    Hit the Pause button.  Take a deep breath, fall on knees and humbly seek the face of God.
  2. Failure to take a Holistic Approach – Piecing a Transition Plan together
    A Church in transition must have a unified cohesive plan.
  3. Failure to Engage with Church Health Best Practices
    A Church must address complacency, apathy and ignorance in regards in missing essential elements of the Church.  Address that which has been neglected.
  4. Failure to Appoint an Interim Leader / Pastor
    An interim leader provides the congregation with a sense of stability, consistency and peace.
  5. Refusal to Seek Outside Help.  Operating in a Vacuum
    Outside consultants provide valuable insight.  Denominational or network affiliations can be extremely valuable.
  6. Trying to “business our way out of this mess”
    Must humbly look to the leading / guidance of the Holy Spirit.
  7. Proceeding with a Capital Campaign in the absence of an Identified Lead Pastor 
    People traditionally do not give to capital campaigns in a time of uncertainty.
  8. Not proceeding with church-wide initiatives in the absence of an identified lead pastor.  (VBS, Mission Trips, Small Groups, Evangelistic Outreach) 
    People do not want the church to tread water during an interim.
  9. Doing Superficial Cosmetic Work before doing the Hard Work of Structural Retooling.
    It is easy to press ahead in an attempt to look good to candidates before the foundation of the church is stabilized.  You can’t build a home on a crumbling foundation.
  10. Ignoring weighty past issues with the mindset of “Today is a new day.  It’s time to bury the past and look forward”
    This neglects the need to process, heal and grieve.
  11. Failure to tell the truth.  No truth = No Trust.
    Recovery is nearly impossible when a church perceives they were deceived.
  12. Manage Sin.
    Covering sin, hiding sin and spinning sin will ultimately destroy a church.
  13. Not counting the cost – both financially and personally.
    Giving will likely drop in the short term.  Delegation is essential as no one person or group can bear the burden alone.
  14. Following the Advice of Attorneys over the Guidance of Scripture
    Maintain integrity even if that means losing the church.  Obey God’s law rather than man’s law.  Far too often, the truth is not told during a pastoral transition.
  15. Filling the Pulpit with an External All-Star Preaching Lineup
    During an interim in a large church, the pulpit should be filled internally.  External guest preachers do not know the congregation which leads to disengagement, withdrawal and church shopping.
  16. Form a search committee too early. 
    There must be a season to refresh, retool and refocus.
  17. When a pastor leaves amongst dissatisfaction with his performance, during the search process, swinging the pastor pendulum to the opposite side.
    Far too many churches over-compensate for the weakness of the previous pastor by looking for pastoral personalities that are opposite the departed pastor.
  18. Holding Secret Meetings
    Operating in a covert manner only increases any spirit of cynicism, mistrust and doubt.
  19. No Clear Plan for Congregational Communication – Lack of Communication
    Staff and congregation must be kept in the loop by the elders and the search committee.  Regular updates are essential.
  20. Hiring a New Pastor too quickly
    It is a major mistake to hire a pastor without digging deep.  There must be serious assessment before any decisions are made.  Judging by appearance and one candidating sermon alone will turn the pastoral search into a beauty pageant.
  21. Failure of the Elders and Staff to Rise to an Appropriate Transition Leadership Level
    A Pastoral transition will result in everyone needing to ‘step up their game’.  This is a season – which must be recognized once the work is done.
  22. Failure to Celebrate!!
    Celebrate a job well done.  Many will give sacrificially during a pastoral transition.  Honor these people for their work.