This is an excerpt from page 6 of the report the Barna Group provided.

Nearly four in ten U.S. Churches (39%) currently have a leadership transition of succession plan in place for when their current pastor leaves or retires, while the majority of churches (60%) do not have such a plan.

There is no statistically significant difference among churches that have or do not have a plan in place in terms of geography, church size or budget. The churches more likely than average to have a plan: are Wesleyen or Arminian; in a mainline denomination; have a senior pastor who has been at the church for only 1-3 years; have a senior pastor in ministry for more than two decades; or have a Boomer senior pastor (ages 46-64). Churches less likely than average to have a succession or transition plan have younder pastors (Buseter, ages 27-45).



Here is my take on what this is telling us.

Observation 1 – We have a long way to go

I was surprised, in a good way, as to the number of respondents that said they have a succession plan in place. On the flip side of that, 60% is still concerning.

Observation 2 – 39% doesn’t actually mean 39%

This number includes pastors that belong to denominations that manage leadership transitions through a regional or district office. I have had enough conversations with pastors in these contexts to realize that a leadership appointment through a regional office doesn’t necessarily mean the local church is developing and implementing a succession plan. It simply means the district is playing a part in identifying a successor. Succession Planning and Replacement Planning are not the same thing.

Observation 3 – Size, budget and location doesn’t mean much

When speaking to groups I like to ask participants to describe the type of church they think would be more likely to have a succession plan in place? Any guesses as to the type of responses I get – large churches with an educated membership and a big enough budget to spend on things like developing a succession plan.

Did you catch this statement in the Barna Group’s report?

There are no statistically significant differences among churches that have or do not have a plan in place in terms of geography, church size or budget.

For the longest time many of us have had a “gut feeling” that churches are not dealing with this issue. It looks like our instincts are correct. My prayer is that our research would be a catalyst for pastors and denomination leaders to act!

Here is a list of all the posts in this series…