3 Keys to Succession Planning


There is a saying that nearly touches every aspect of life. It goes, “when you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” When it comes to the transferring of leadership, succession planning can fall victim to this saying if not protected. This is one of those life events in the life of the pastor and your church that one normally doesn’t have much experience in. We hope these three keys will help you understand the complexity of succession planning and move you to seek guidance when the time comes.  

Key #1  You can’t rush art.  

“You can’t rush art” is one of the most iconic lines in Toy Story 2.  The toy cleaner uses this line to repair and restore the famous cowboy, Woody. What does this have to do with succession? Succession is not a science, it is an art. It can’t be rushed. While it is great to have a timetable for the transition, some stages of the planning go much slower than others. Embrace the slow times. It is an imperative step to bring all key stakeholders along. Secondly, there is no formula one can replicate to get the exact same result every time. For example, when mixing red paint with yellow paint, the intended result will be orange. However, there are thousands of shades of orange to get depending on how colors are mixed and the red-to-yellow ratios. 

Key #2 Multitasking = more mistakes simultaneously.

Wait a minute, how can this be true? Multi-tasking is a great skill set people love to tout on resumes. It means you are expedient and resourceful. But in succession planning, multitasking is granting permission to make more mistakes simultaneously All organizations strive for productivity and efficiency. However, in this season, multitasking is a distraction, not an opportunity to gain traction. Limit big initiatives, projects, and other transitions. This might not be the time to change your small group model. Avoid starting something new from scratch. Hold off on the sanctuary remodel. Conserve your energy to complete a successful succession because succession planning will demand all of it.  

Key #3 The Devil is in the details. 

Succession is an emotionally charged process; a lot is happening in the details. Success depends on many small decisions instead of one large one. Like baking a cake, leave out one ingredient or measure another incorrectly, and the result will be noticed. At Vanderbloemen, we have written the book NEXT, which contains thought-provoking stories and questions to work through when engaging in succession planning. Questions such as, is your Senior Pastor ready emotionally, financially, and spiritually? How does one get ready? Should there be a gap between the current Senior Pastor and the new Senior Pastor or should their tenure overlap When is the right time to start? What are some costs to anticipate?  When should we start looking for the incoming Pastor? Should the Pastor and Elders shoulder all the responsibility or should another team be created? These are just a few of the numerous details to work through.  

In the end, succession planning is a critical part of the mission of your church. At Vanderbloemen, we want to help you thrive in your mission. With proper planning, success can truly come from your succession planning. So, when it is time for a new Pastor, will your church be ready?