100% of pastors will stop pastoring at some time. Whether by choice, circumstance, or death, all pastors will relinquish their position.

There were thousands of pastoral transitions in the last year. Of these, at least 6% were pastoral transitions in churches 1,000+ and above. Over the next ten years in the United States, there are expected to be 480,000 pastoral transitions with an astounding 90% of those – roughly 430,000 – not having any succession plan in place.

Anecdotally, a large church takes 12 to 24 months to replace a pastor, resulting in numeric attrition, financial shortfalls, and leadership departures.

Most Pastoral transitions are by default, not design.

Why should you plan a succession/transition?

100% of pastors will stop pastoring at some time. Whether by choice, circumstance, or death, all pastors will relinquish their position. This is a simplistic statement of fact that is often glazed over by pastors for various reasons.

Design or default. Unfortunately, at least 90% of pastoral transitions occur by default. Meaning, there is no plan in place to accommodate succession or transition. A pastor announces retirement, passes away, has a moral failure or catastrophic event, and the board then engages to find a replacement with time being the major factor in recruitment. Little thought is given to this process ahead of time although it is of crucial impact to the stagnation or growth of the church. Very few Bylaws address succession and transition in any meaningful way.

Leadership stewardship. With the ultimate goal of advancing the Kingdom of God, pastors and boards should seek to promote a succession process that encompasses many facets, not just focuses on filling a vacancy. A future oriented pastor and board will consider sustainability and scalability as a benchmark for stewardship.

Sustainability and scalability of the church. Pastoral transitions are secondarily about an incoming and outgoing pastor but it is primarily that the “…fruit should remain…” assuring the church remains viable, vibrant, healthy, and growing.

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