Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pastoral Transitions

In this post I am honored to have Dr. Jim Garlow share some unique and important insights into pastoral transitions.
Jim and I have been friends for over 20 years and his ministry in the church the community on radio and on television broadcasts have all impacted thousands of lives. His books are among some of the most read books in the Christian Community.

Links To Jim's Website and Church

Dr. Jim Garlow, author, communicator and historian, and Senior Pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, CA, is heard daily on nearly 800 radio outlets nationwide in his one minute historical commentary called “The Garlow Perspective.”
He graduated from Drew University (Ph.D. in historical theology), Princeton Theological Seminary (Master of Theology), Asbury Theological Seminary (Master of Divinity), Southern Nazarene University (B.A. & M.A.), Oklahoma Wesleyan University (A.A.).
Due to the book Cracking Da Vinci’s Code (co-authored with Peter Jones, 500,000 copies in print, becoming No.17 on the New York Times Bestsellers List – paperback, nonfiction), Jim has appeared on numerous national TV shows on NBCCNN, Fox, MSNBC and CNBC.
His newest book, The Da Vinci CodeBreaker, a dictionary with over 500 key Da Vinci Code related terms, releases in early April, and has already sold 60,000 in pre-sales.
Other books include How God Saved Civilization (re-released as God And His People), A Christian’s Response to Islam, The Covenant, Partners in Ministry, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Tested by Time and God Still Heals.
Jim’s wife Carol is a graduate of Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. She serves as Minister of Prayer & Intercession at Skyline Wesleyan Church. Jim and Carol have four children and four grandchildren.


By Dr. Jim Garlow

Transition - (tran-zish’un), n.1.  Passage from one place, state, stage of development, type, etc., to another; change; also, the period, place, passage, etc., in which such a change is effected.

  “Pastoral transition is like a relay.  A relay consists of four runners and a baton.  Speed is important but not the most important thing.  The transition is critical.  Four fast runners who cannot properly hand on the baton will lose.  Four good runners who under-stand transition will win.  Successful relays are won by those who know how to hand the baton on with precision and accuracy.”

  “My part of the race at Metroplex Chapel is now ending.  The race here is now yours.  At this point it matters less how fast we run as how carefully we hand the baton.  I pass it on to you now, challenging you to first carefully receive the baton, and only then – when you have it firmly in your grip – to run the race as fast as you can.”

-       Jim Garlow, outgoing pastor, to Dan Huckins, incoming pastor, at his installation at Metroplex Chapel on
      September 25, 1996.

  Examples of Biblical Relays –
  •  Abraham – Isaac – Jacob – Joseph – Genesis 12 – 50;  You, your sons, your grandson – Deuteronomy 4:9; You, your sons, their sons, the next generation – Joel 1:3; Paul, Timothy, faithful men, others – II Timothy 2:2.  “The family is a perpetual relay of truth.” – Edith Schaeffer.

On the following pages you will find six sets of “Ten Commandments.”  Enclosed are

                  THE TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR:
                                     …a church when losing its pastor, 
                                     …a pastor when leaving a church 
                                     …a church when getting a new pastor 
                                     …a pastor going to a new church 
                                     …following a celebrity…the “don’ts” 
                                     …following a celebrity…the “do’s” 

Having gone through a transition in October 1995, I have listed both the “commandments” which I myself followed…along with these that I learned along the way and thus followed…along with some which I wish I would have known so I could have followed.   – Jim Garlow

“Trust is the glue that holds a leader and the organization together.  When I handed the baton off to Jim, we made a commitment to trust each other.  This has given a great sense of security to the congregation.  Jim Garlow is my pastor and my very good friend.”
-       John Maxwell, who preceded Jim Garlow as Senior Pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church

“After transitioning into Metroplex Chapel, I learned three things very quickly.  First, I learned Jim Garlow had left a wonderful legacy.  I was indeed standing on his shoulders.  Second, he had thoroughly prepared the people, especially the leadership, to receive me and my leadership and style with open arms.  Following a pastor and leader of his stature, this was critical.  Third, after being at Metroplex Chapel for awhile I realized Jim Garlow could be my pastor any time.  For if he was, I should be sitting at the feet of a great leader and a godly man.  I thank Jim Garlow for transitioning in such a way that I could be a success in the church he founded.  That is a great gift.”-      
-Dan Huckins, who followed Jim Garlow as Senior Pastor of Metroplex Chapel

By Dr. Jim Garlow
  1.  Remember, in life, change is a given.  Everything (except God) changes.  It is inevitable.  So don’t waste energy in denial or “fighting it.” 
  2. This is not the end of the world; it only feels like it.  God really does love you and He will soon prove it by bringing you another wonderful pastor.
  3. The pastor didn’t leave because he doesn’t like you…or because he likes some other church better.  He is simply trying to obey God.
  4.  If, by chance, you were one of those critics of the pastor, repent.  Otherwise there will be curse on the church, and you won’t like the consequences.  God is not interested in protecting the outgoing pastor as a person, but he is jealous about the office.  So, in the event you participated in “pastor bashing” (even if it was in the form of a “prayer request:”  “let’s pray for our pastor…”), then repent.
  5.  Encourage those around you that God’s hand is still on the church.
  6. If you are not on the governing body which selects the new pastor, then pray for them and encourage them.
  7.  If you are on the governing board, then pray and fast.  When you finish that, do it again.
  8. Never ever, ever, ever “campaign” for your favorite “candidate.”  Stop being God.  Let Him install who He would.  Let the church board have full liberty.  This is not the Republican or Democratic Convention.  If you “campaign,” a factious spirit will enter the congregation andyou will be the one who let it in.
  9.  Above all, stand by your church.  She stood by you lots of times.  This is one of those time your church needs you.  Don’t leave.  If you leave, it reveals things about you that you don’t  want to hear.  Don’t be divisive.  Don’t go down the street and start another church.  It will be for wrong reasons and built on a wrong foundation.
  10.  Stay positive!  Keep a smile on your face and a song in your heart.  Assure others “it will be all right”…because it will.


By Dr. Jim Garlow

  1. Talk with key lay leadership privately before the public announcement.  They’ve worked with you closely.  They deserve some “process time,” even if only 24 hours.  Yes, it might “leak,” but it’s worth the risk.
  2. When you make the announcement, say it in the first sentence, then explain later.  Don’t “build up to it” slowly, causing unnecessary apprehension.
  3. Keep explanations simple and straightforward.  Complex explanations as to why you’re eaving only confuse.
  4. Don’t stay around long.  Leave soon…within six weeks…or earlier.  You are worth nothing after two or three weeks.  In fact, your presence may even hurt.
  5. Don’t promise you’ll be there for weddings, funerals, etc.  In fact, make it clear you won’t be there.  Contrary to what you (and they) think, they’ll do fine without you.
  6. Don’t “wind down.”  Keep the preaching positive.  Tell them God will see them through this…because He will.  This is not the final chapter, only the end to one chapter.  The next chapter will be “ever onward and upward.”
  7. Don’t publicly mention the church you’re going to more than a couple times.  They’ll tire of it quickly after the third time.
  8.  Don’t “stack the deck” for who is to follow you.  Leave the church board a long list of suggestions and people to call for leads (they really do need this since you know way more pastors than they do).  Then get out of the way.
  9. Be aware that some of your critics may get very vocal after you leave.  Ignore their comments.  You left behind a lot of good fruit.  Don’t sweat the “rotten” fruit.  Don’t yield to the temptation to “take shots” at them.  Remember, vengeance is the Lord’s, not yours 
  10.   No matter who they pick as your successor, affirm their decision and affirm him/her.  This will help him/her succeed.  Then rejoice when they do!


By Dr. Jim Garlow

Preached by Dr. Jim Garlow on October 8, 1995 as he was leaving Metroplex Chapel in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, (which he had planted 13 years earlier) to go to Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, California.

  1. Let your new pastor dream his dream.  Let him have his own vision.  Don’t tie him to the previous pastor’s  vision.  Let the previous pastor’s vision go.  Let the previous pastor go.  Release him.  Embrace the new.
  2. Let him be himself.  He will be different than the previous pastor.  If he is hilariously funny, let him be a clown. If he is unusually serious, let him be somber.  Appreciate his uniqueness.
  3. Commit to stand with him through the hard times.  The honeymoon will eventually end.  Be committed to him for the “long haul”.  Put a defense around him.  He will be attacked.  Make sure you’re not one of the attackers.  Don’t make him take the hits.  Help protect him from the people with a “Jezebel spirit” who want to control and manipulate him and “till outside their vineyard.”
  4.  Let him lead.  If you are part of the old staff that remains, give him your loyalty.  If you are a board member who remains, give him full allegiance.  Be committed to follow him.
  5.  Support him even when he can’t publicly explain why he had to make a certain decision.  Bear in mind that pastors frequently cannot defend themselves in order to protect the guilty.  They have to remain quiet about issues.  Often times they have to dismiss a staff member, or remove a lay person from leadership (yes even when they first arrive) and yet they cannot discuss it.  Consequently, the pastor receives criticism.  If people  knew the truth, they would support their pastor.  Don’t try to be God.  Just be quiet and support your pastor.
  6. Release him from being your “best buddy”.   He probably won’t be.  If the church numbers above 100, it is more than he can possibly be close to, socially.  Let him love you – and he will – but don’t try to spend large amounts of social time with him.  He can’t physically spread himself around that thin.
  7.  Let his wife be herself.  (This is assuming you are calling a male pastor, of course.)  If she is hilariously funny and outgoing, let her be that way.  If she is unbelievably quiet and shy, don’t attack her for not being friendly.  If she is incredibly stylish, don’t criticize her.  If she is non-stylish and looks out of date, it’s okay.  The church will survive that too.  If her skirts appear expensive, that’s her business.  If her skirts are too short, be quiet and look the other way.  Bottom line:  Let her be herself.  (NOTE:  If your pastor is a female…well, you know how to “translate” this.)
  8.  Look for opportunities to encourage and affirm him.  Find every opportunity verbally, by written notes, or other ways to encourage your pastor.  The church will reap huge rewards.
  9.  Stay focused on the big picture.  With the single exception of a pastor denying the reality of Jesus, there has never been a church fight that was really worth it.  Don’t leave the church over any issue, unless he stops preaching that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, died on the cross for our sins, physically resurrected, and is coming back again.  As long as he preaches that, love him and stay with him.  Bottom line:  chill out!  The 11th Commandment says, “Thou shalt not sweat it!”  So don’t.  Two years later, that issue won’t matter, but the big picture will – so focus on it.
  10. Stand by your church.  By all means, don’t leave the church during this time of transition.  Of course it will be a difficult period.  Transitions always are.  But your church stood with you during your difficult times, so…stand with your church during her difficult times.  It needs you.  While you are in the transition it feels like it will last forever.  But it won’t.  When it passes, you will be glad you stayed put.  If you expect your church to stand with you, then stand with it…no matter what!


By Dr. Jim Garlow

  1. Enjoy the honeymoon.  A honeymoon isn’t meant to last forever.  And it won’t.
  2. Don’t act messianic, because you’re not the Messiah.  You’re just “the next pastor.”  It’s okay not to have lots of answers.
  3.  Never condemn the previous pastor’s methods.  His were right…for him.  Yours will beright…for you.
  4.  Never yield to the temptation of making yourself look good at your predecessor’s expense. Avoid the phrase, “When I came… (then describe how bad it was).”
  5.  Acknowledge your predecessor’s hard work.  Yes, he worked as hard as you are.
  6. Acknowledge you are “standing on his shoulders,” because you are.  The building, people, finances, etc., were either brought by him, or at least maintained by him.
  7.  Don’t try to be your predecessor.  Be yourself.
  8.  Make some changes quickly, others very slowly…and have the sense to know the difference. Take your time in most changes.  If you make too many changes quickly, they’ll change one more thing – you!  Establish your priorities fairly soon…and make them clear.  Put your  “philosophy of ministry” in print.  Otherwise they’ll wonder “where is he taking the church?”
  9.  Know that you (your spouse and kids) will experience culture shock in some form.  You will wake up some mornings (possibly for as long as the first three years) wondering, “what have I done?”  But it will be okay.  You obeyed God and He’ll see you through.
  10. Understand that your “learning curve” or “finding your full stride” may take up to three years.  So relax.  You’re in it for the “long haul.”  Or at least you ought to be..cause He is! 


By Dr. Jim Garlow

Prepared for the Beeson Leadership Institute at Asbury Theological Seminary at the request of Dr. Dale Galloway.  Jim Garlow is the Senior Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church, San Diego, CA., having followed John Maxwell who rose to national prominence during his fourteen year tenure at Skyline.

  1. Don’t try to be him; you’ll look stupid.  Be yourself.  You won’t look stupid.
  2. Don’t try to act like you possess his strengths; you don’t. But that’s okay. (If you’re intimidated by following a celebrity, speak openly of it at first, then  drop it.)  
  3. Don’t speak about your insecurities much.  They are not interested in your insecurities.  Everybody has them, but there is no need to constantly  speak of them. 
  4. Don’t lend credence to communications in which people want to tell you the celebrity’s weaknesses.  All celebrities have super strengths (that’s why they’re celebrities)…and corresponding weaknesses.
  5. Don’t allow those who are “anti-celebrity” types to bash your predecessor. There will always be some of those.  They are usually “small people” who are jealous of the celebrity’s success.  If you listen to them, it only shows your insecurities, not the superstar’s weaknesses.
  6. Don’t try to hang on to all the celebrity’s followers.  You can’t.  You won’t.
  7. Don’t try to stop the inevitable changes in leadership.  His staff/lay leaders will not be your staff/lay leaders.
  8. Don’t overlook the advantages you have as a “down home” type and not a celebrity.  Remember, “non-celebrity” status has its advantages too.
  9. Don’t “retreat from the celebrity’s presence” through such things as honors,books, tapes, organizations and employees.  Flow with it.  Rejoice in it.  In fact, publicly affirm his ongoing accomplishments.
  10. Don’t become over-enamored with “celebrity status.”  It’s fleeting.  It only lasts 15 minutes.  Life goes on.  Enjoy who you are.


By Dr. Jim Garlow

Prepared for the Beeson Leadership Institute at Asbury Theological Seminary at the request of Dr. Dale Galloway.  Jim Garlow is the Senior Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church, San Diego, CA., having followed John Maxwell who rose to national prominence during his fourteen year tenure at Skyline.


By Dr. Jim Garlow

Prepared for the Beeson Leadership Institute at Asbury Theological Seminary at the request of Dr. Dale Galloway.  Jim Garlow is the Senior Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church, San Diego, CA., having followed John Maxwell who rose to national prominence during his fourteen year tenure at Skyline.

  1. Acknowledge that you’re not a celebrity:   you aren’t, they know you aren’t.  They need to know that  you know you’re not.  Do it once or twice, then drop it.
  2. Recognize that the church is not, first and foremost, looking for a celebrity.  They’ve already had oneThey want a pastor.  So be one.
  3. Develop thick skin.  Some people will leave.  You can either internalize it as “rejection,” or acknowledge that it is an inevitable (and even a necessary and good) change.
  4. If the celebrity you are following was gone a lot (and all of them are) and was inaccessible (every well-known person has to isolate himself some or he’ll be smothered), then stay home (don’t travel  much) and be accessible (they’ll love it).  Thus, you will establish yourself as a pastor.
·      Don’t ever mention you’re “home” and “not gone.”  It shows you are insecure (need to “one-up” your predecessor) and it will come back to bite you every time you make an “out-of-town” trip. 
·      Be accessible but not egalitarian.
·      Accessible    -you reach out and touch
o      hug, shake hands
o      be with them
o      learn all their names (no matter how hard it is)
·      Egalitarian    -   you do all the counseling, all of everything…and fail to focus on  your leaders.  It will destroy you.  It will destroy you emotionally, physically and “sink the boat.”

5.     Find your strengths (you must have some pronounced ones or you wouldn’t be following a celebrity) and maximize them.  What are you good at?  Do it a lot.  What are you lousy at?  Admit it.  Then quickly hire an associate who is good at that.
6.     Acknowledge that the celebrity brought growth or finances or visibility or maybe even “prestige” to the church, and you are benefiting from some of these.
7.     Be patient with those who experience “grief” when the celebrity leaves.  Celebrities bring their own ethos, charisma and energy…almost an aura that non-celebrities don’t necessarily evidence with near the intensity.
8.     If time, geography and temperaments allow it, become a close friend with the celebrity.  You will reap great rewards from this.
9.     If possible, seek your predecessor’s counsel often.  You will benefit enormously from this.
10.  Allow yourself three years to “settle in,” because that’s how long it will take.


If you found this material helpful visit the Skyline website and leave an encouraging word for Dr. Garlow. Would you also pray for his wonderful wife Carol who is by faith winning her battle with cancer. Here's a blog link to keep to enable you to be an informed warrior of prayer

1 comment:

  1. I am recommending this site to a pastor friend who is leaving. I found some of this information 8 years ago and it proved to be solid advice. We are praying for Carol.

    Pastor Ron Olson -- Enid OK. (Cedar Ridge Wesleyan)