Tim Brown, pastor of Luther Memorial Church in Chicago has posted an article on clergy transitions over at the Lutheran titled The 5 things that happen when you get a new pastor which reflects on how congregations live through clergy transitions.
There seems to be some good wisdom in his points, including these:
2. Some people will leave.
We don’t like to talk about this, and we don’t like to think about this, but it’s true.
Perhaps they’re leaving because the previous pastor’s departure gives them the freedom to also move on after being heavily involved. Perhaps they’ve been on the margins of the community anyway, and this allows them to step away quietly. Perhaps they’re longtime members who just can’t get on board with the new pastor and his way of doing things.
No community stays stagnant forever. There will be a temptation by the new pastor and the congregants to want to keep these people by hook or crook, but sometimes this just needs to happen for one reason or another. This particular transition will require trust, honesty and the ability for the congregation to love people enough to let them go if they have to leave.
4. New life will spring forth.
It will. Probably in unexpected places. The new pastor will bring his or her own hopes, ideas and energy to new and existing programs and projects. New life will certainly spring up. The congregation must be adaptable, embracing these new sprigs of life and harnessing this energy to spur on ministry in other areas.
And then closes with this helpful reminder
If gossip, hard hearts, unrelenting egos and ambition get in the way, this fruit of the new relationship will surely whither on the vine. But when we give each other the authority and space to welcome new people, let people go, embrace godly change and encourage new life, love will grow and flourish and infect the church like a mustard weed, allowing the gospel to take root.
The call of the church is not just the pastor’s, and the church is not primarily the parishioners’. It is God’s call; it is God’s church. We just enjoy the responsibility and joy of stewarding both.