The Personal Side of Succession  

I was recently on the phone with a pastor that wants to start the process of succession planning. Our time on the phone was another reminder of how personal the issue of succession planning is.

Our call started out like so many others. He and the Executive Pastor gave me the background of the church. They listed some of the issues they think need to be addressed over the next five to seven years. They asked for my initial thoughts and other questions related to how I go about helping churches like theirs. We talked for about 45 minutes before his Executive Pastor had to leave for another appointment.

Once it was just Bob, the Sr. Pastor, on the line I took the opportunity to get a little more personal. I asked a simple question…

 “How are you and your wife handling the idea of your eventual retirement?”

The tone completely changed!! The initial part of the call was all about organizational priorities. Now, we were able to start digging into his personal motivations.  Here is a summary of what we talked about:

He wants to stay involved with the church after he retires

The fear of hurting people by not transitioning well is a significant motivation

What will he do next?

His wife’s transition is just as important as his

He is wondering what their financial future will look like

Succession Planning is bigger than hiring the right person, developing leaders or making sure the organization doesn’t lose momentum.  Don’t get me wrong – these things are important. But in the process of addressing the organizational side of succession planning we must be careful not lose sight of our opportunity to help the retiring leader wrestle through their personal fears and concerns.