[Blog] Succession is a Symphony

Mar 24, 2023


by EXPAND Consulting Partners

A healthy and positive succession and transition is a symphony: many parts playing off the same score, synchronized by a conductor to the delight of the audience. Some of the instrumentalists in this symphony are the outgoing Lead Pastor, the church Board, the Pastoral Succession/Transition Team, the potential candidates, the final candidate, the church constitution and bylaws, the spoken and unspoken expectations of the congregation, the methodical cascading of information, the prescribed process for Pastor selection, the consultant, the appreciation and celebration of outgoing Lead Pastor, the installation and welcoming of the incoming Lead Pastor. Together they create a symphony.

In this blog, we will describe some of the members of the orchestra and their responsibilities.

A. Confidentiality. Many uncomfortable and sensitive issues arise in the process of developing a succession plan. All information, discussions and plans will remain confidential, not to be discussed with outsiders without explicit permission.

B. Deep listening. This is one of the main points of differentiation between EXPAND consultants and others. We listen and navigate intuitively. This comes from years of experience guiding difficult conversations appropriately. And again, following our Lord’s paradigm, we listen first, then ask questions, gaining understanding and offering answers (see Luke 2:46-47).

C. Cultural sensitivity. Every church has its own organizational culture, and we respectfully operate within that context. Culture simply defined is, “This is how we do things here.” Our intent is to assist the church and its leadership in creating a culture that is healthy and conducive for a pastoral succession and transition.

D. Customizing process. Every church is different, every church is unique and every church’s calling and grace are providential. Therefore, we develop a fully customized plan and process for each client with contextualized nuances for every situation.

E. Engaging in sensitive conversations. We tackle the difficult discussions upfront and help settle contentious issues that arise. It is better to have these conversations at the very beginning of the process than to avoid them and have larger issues to deal with later that affect the process or organization.

F. Assisting implementation of processes. We engage with the Lead Pastor and/or Board to drive and facilitate the plan. This involves a great deal of engagement and follow-up with all parties to ensure forward momentum.

G. Assisting in financial matters for succeeding Pastor and successor. If we can provide an honorable path for an outgoing Pastor financially, this will help them to pursue future endeavors and release their position at a more opportune time in the life of the church. We will also assist in finding a match with the church’s budget and the incoming Lead Pastor’s needs and desires.

H. Guiding the process and keeping focus on the wellbeing of the succeeding Pastor and the church. Our continuous engagement allows participating stakeholders to move forward while maintaining a big-picture view of their health and future.

I. Guiding the transition at least six months following the formal installation of the new Pastor. It is important that we stay engaged with the new Pastor as he or she navigates through natural (as well as unwelcome) issues that arise during the beginning of their tenure.

J. Most consultants are familiar with the succession paradigm, but not the transition paradigm. EXPAND consultants operate both as needed and in a manner that is contextualized. A succession is defined as the outgoing Lead Pastor having no interest in serving in any formal manner at the church yet staying at the church. A transition is when the outgoing Lead Pastor transitions to the Leadership Team with well-defined responsibilities and expectations and works at the pleasure of the new Lead Pastor. Because most consultants work on succession and not necessarily on transition, they don’t pay attention to the reentry of the outgoing Pastor, which leads to a reset for the incoming Pastor, returning Pastor and the church. We clarify expectations to minimize these disruptive situations.


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