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Saying Goodbye: How To Transition Well

Sooner or later, most of us will transition out of the role or the job we are in now. As we all know, where we start is hardly ever where we finish.

So when the time comes for us to transition, how do we do it well? How do we set up the church we’re leaving for success? How do we make sure the students we leave behind aren’t devastated or bitter? How can we finish strong? Essentially, the question we’re asking is this: How do we make sure we’re minimizing the potential damage of a bad transition by maximizing the potential for positive kingdom impact by making a healthy transition?

Knowing that the circumstances surrounding every transition will be unique, here are a few tips to help you transition well that I think will apply to almost every situation.

1) Don’t drag it out. No one needs a long farewell tour. Once you’ve decided to transition, be sure to leave in a timely manner. What that timeline looks like depends on your obligations, commitments, and context. Develop a transition plan to hand the baton off well.

2) No ghost transitions. Just as staying too long is unhealthy, leaving too soon can be detrimental to your ministry. However tempting it may be to want to pack your U-Haul, announce the transition, and get the heck out of dodge, I’m telling you not to do it. Stick around for the appropriate amount of time to have the conversations and allow yourself to leave well.

3) Tell your core first. When you have student leaders and great volunteers that have served underneath your leadership for a long time, the last place they need to hear about your transition is from the stage. Tell as many of your core people in person as possible. This communicates the value they have to you and your ministry. When it’s time to share the news publically, half of the room should already know.

4) Protect the church. The circumstances surrounding the transition could be positive or negative for you, but no student needs to know if they’re negative. Remember, the transition is not just about you; it’s also about the church. Our students need to see and believe that the church can transition well. We don’t need a bad transition to be another reason for them to leave the church. Be careful to say only what you believe is beneficial and helpful.

5) Avoid the “bigger and better” transition. When you leave, be careful that you don’t make the place you’re going sound better than the place you’re leaving. I once heard a pastor say this during his transition announcement: “This is my burning bush moment, and God has called me to more and more influence.” Well, great. While that may have been true, it devalues the people you’ve led. When you make where you’re going sound more important than where you’ve been, you’re sending a message that where you’ve been isn’t all that important.

When the time comes, we all want to transition well. Hopefully these action steps will help you make the transition as smooth and as healthy as possible.

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