William Vanderbloemen: “Avoid these five landmines, and your pastoral transition is guaranteed to go as smoothly as possible.”
In all the years I’ve helped churches find their leaders, I’ve seen that there is no greater dealmaker or deal-breaker to a successful pastoral transition than the health of the incoming pastor’s family—especially during their move.
Most churches tell their pastoral candidates that the church has little or no expectations of their spouse. Gone are the days when pastors’ wives were expected to play the organ, direct the children’s choir and sit in the front row for every event.
But don’t let that fool you into thinking that a pastoral transition—especially when it involves a move—won’t add stress to your marriage.
Here are five marriage landmines I’ve seen too many people step on as they consider a new pastoral position. Avoid them and you’ll avoid putting unnecessary stress on your family during your next move.
1. Not including your spouse in the process.
You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve heard that a pastor hasn’t spoken to their spouse until late in their interview and transition process. When that happens, the spouse feels like an emotional bomb has been dropped on them, while the pastor has already had time to adjust to the idea. There is no other job that consumes the entire family like being a pastor. Include your spouse in the entire recruiting and interviewing process. From the moment you begin to consider a transition and every step along the way, keep your spouse informed and ask their opinion on everything.
2. Not creating a new support system.
The old saying is true: The church is a jealous mistress. Pastors often spend three nights a week or more out attending to pastoral care needs. Consider where your family will find their support while you are out. Chances are, your pastoral transition involves you and your spouse leaving an established support system. How will you actively seek a new support system? How can you provide emotional support for your spouse while they build their new support system?
3. Not realizing that timing is everything.
When considering a new support system, it’s vital to strive for good timing. Does your spouse have work or social commitments they need to complete before moving? Do your children need to finish the current school year before moving them to a new state and school? Will the date of your move leave time for your family to adjust to the new location before jumping into school, work, etc.?
4. Not going ahead of them.
Consider going ahead of your family for the first 100 days of your new pastoral position. These first 100 days are filled with an unusually high workload for a new pastor—acclimating to your new staff, meeting your new congregants—which leaves your family alone during the toughest period of the transition. It might be easier on your family if you moved alone for the first three months and travel back on a regular basis to help them tie up loose ends, paving the way for their transition as much as possible.
5. Not allowing space for pulling up roots.
Married couples often consist of a pioneer and a settler. The pioneer goes to new opportunities, while the settler has the job of planting roots. The pioneer loves change, while the settler prefers what they know. While you may be headed to a brand new opportunity, your family is leaving a home. Leave room and time for them to pull up roots.
It’s normal for a transition to be tough. The key is continually giving grace to your family throughout the entire transition. Avoid these five landmines, and your pastoral transition is guaranteed to go as smoothly as possible.
William Vanderbloemen is president and CEO of The Vanderbloemen Search Group, and is the co-author (with Warren Bird) of Next: Pastoral Succession That Works. For more information: Vanderbloemen.com