~Part II~

In yesterday’s OIC, we began the discussion on succession planning in the church. As I said yesterday, a sudden, unexpected change in leadership is guaranteed to bring about a decline in membership, compromised morale, decreased funding, and lots of conflict, often times including a church split. This is why pastors – and all leaders – need a succession plan.

Click here to read part one, where we discussed what succession planning is, who needs it, and why it’s an important part of effective leadership. Today, we’ll pick up where we left off yesterday.

Where do I start?

1. Prayerfully determine how your successor will be selected. Perhaps in your church, this will involve a vote, a discussion, an election process, or some sort of formal approval. Perhaps you’ll go on a consecration. However you do it, be sure to include prayer to ensure you are directed by God. Don’t be afraid to seek wise counsel. Use a pen and paper to write down what qualities your successor should have, and refer back to it when you’re considering different candidates.

2. Put it in writing! My former supervisor would always tell me “if it isn’t in writing, it doesn’t exist!!” (Thanks, Assane). I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how many churches have split because the pastor left instructions to be followed after his death, but never put it in writing. It’s hard to question whether the pastor really wanted Elder Johnny to be the new pastor when you have his written instructions in front of you. You can tell your wife you want Elder Johnny to take over, but if your wife can’t prove that to the people, there’s no guarantee they’ll take her word for it.

3. Spend quality time developing, training, and coaching your successor. This can take years, which is why it’s important to start your succession planning NOW. When Dr. MaLinda Sapp, wife of recording artist and pastor Marvin Sapp, fell ill, she gathered those who worked with her and began giving them all the tools they would need to carry on in her absence. For years prior to her illness, she had poured into them, trained them, developed them, coached them and prepared them to carry the mantle. When cancer revisited her, she began to give specific instructions putting everything in order to make the transition of leadership as easy on the people as it could be in the circumstances. Many of them testified after her passing that they were ready to carry on because she had prepared them.

4. Validate him or her publicly. No matter how much your members love you, once you’re gone, they will not stay if they don’t “buy” the person you put in charge. If you don’t believe me, ask them. You must get the people’s buy-in, and that starts with validating your successor. Find ways to get the people familiar with your successor by making sure he is active in ministry, has good relationships with the members, and mic time. Most importantly – whether directly or indirectly – be sure the people know that you’ve given him authority to lead.

5. Make sure your superiors, attorneys, spouse, and front-line leaders know the plan. This is pretty self-explanatory. If you belong to an organization, you’ll probably need to get the approval or at least buy-in from your superiors. You’ll want to check with your attorney to make sure all your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. And how awful would it be for those who walked closest to you over the years to find out about your plan from someone other than you. Plus, it may take time to gain their support. If your support beams aren’t in place, the whole structure will likely collapse.

As always, you’re welcome to call or write me if you have any questions or need more information.