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Opportunity amid vulnerability

A classic book on pastoral transitions offers guidance on how to navigate change.

June 9, 2009

In 1987, the Rev. Loren Mead, founder of the Alban Institute, wrote a guidebook on pastoral transition called “Critical Moment of Ministry: Change of Pastors.”

The book, revised in 2005 and renamed “A Change of Pastors . . . And How It Affects Change in the Congregation,” still is regarded by many experts as the leading work on helping congregations through a complicated time.

Mead summed up pastoral transition as a period of great opportunity and great vulnerability, offering guidelines and suggestions for taking advantage of a change in leadership.

Among other advice, Mead outlines five developmental tasks for congregations to undertake in the critical moment of pastoral transition:

  • Coming to terms with history. Look at the congregation’s history, accomplishments, high and low points and how it got where it is today.
  • Discovering a new identity. Reexamine the congregation’s mission, core values and vision.
  • Allowing needed leadership change. Examine how lay leadership is practiced in the church and learn how to tap into both new and old lay leadership.
  • Renewing denominational linkages. How does the congregation relate to the wider church, the denomination and other churches and ministries in the community?
  • Commitment to new directions in ministry. Develop a plan for the future by building readiness for and commitment to new directions under a new pastor.