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Transition: Opportunity or Obstruction?

COACHING CHURCH LEADERS THROUGH TRANSITION

I experienced “transition” long before I heard about it, as a formal, measurable season of life

If you are a leader and have been in, or are currently in transition, then you know it’s complex and confusing. You are all-too-familiar with the roller coaster of emotions, unstable footing and the uncertainty of tomorrow associated with the “T” word.

Before leading Gateway Christian Fellowship, (Gateway for short), I was a Sr. Associate Pastor at Church of the Hills in Austin, Texas.

From my time there, I remember one particular time when Graham Cooke was speaking. He told us to get comfortable with the “T” word because we would be “in it” for the rest of our lives. I think I heard a collective groan in the room that morning. I wish he hadn’t said that.

Wait, I’m glad he said it. Hold on, I’m not sure how I feel about this — give me a second to think.

Isn’t that the nature of transition? It’s a love-hate relationship

We are excited about “newness,” but loathe letting go of the “old.” It was Heraclitus that said, “The only thing that is constant is change.”

In his book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, William Bridges wrote, “Every transition begins with an ending. We have to let go of the old thing before we can pick up the new one– not just outwardly, but inwardly, where we keep our connections to people and places that act as definitions of who we are.”

My wife and I find ourselves in the depths of transition. I don’t just mean depth, as if transition is one-dimensional in direction and that there is only one way to escape. No, we are surrounded by it. In every direction, all we see is, yep, you guessed it…transition.

Our current “T” time started in 2013 when my wife Darlene and I believed that God was asking us to branch out and become Lead Pastors in a local church context. We knew church life. My wife grew up in the church and once I became a Christian (25 years ago) I lived in the church. (Not literally, but I think you know what I mean!) We have served the local church for years and we love it because we lover people and believer in the power of the local church to be a gateway of hope.

After a series of interviews and search committee meetings, etc. we were offered the position to lead Gateway. We enthusiastically said yes, but I was not prepared for what William Bridges describes as the “3 Stages of Transition.”

The Stages are:

1. an ending, followed by

2. a period of confusion and distress, leading to

3. a new beginning, for those who had come that far.

In this series of blogs, I will share my experience as a new pastor, a leader of an established church and a rich history of the five relationships (not in any specific order) that have helped me successfully manage the “3 Stages of Transition.”

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