by Terry Scalzitti
As a young volunteer, I once asked the question: “How will I know if I’ve done a good job in ministry?” The best advice I ever received was this answer: “If you leave the church, and the ministry doesn’t skip a beat, then you’ve done a great job. If you leave, and the ministry falls apart in six months, then you’ve failed.” Ouch, that seems harsh, especially when we’d like to think of ourselves as indispensible. But it’s a powerful principle: If a ministry falters and fails when a leader leaves, he or she wasn’t much of a leader in the first place. Most churches can avoid transitional pain, if they have a replacement plan. Below are three key points to having a successful replacement plan.
Step 1: Be able to clearly articulate your job responsibilities
Can you clearly and concisely explain to someone what you do? Having a clear understanding of your current job responsibilities will help you to raise up other leaders to do your job. If you can’t explain it, then they can’t learn it or understand it. If they can’t understand it, then your position will remain exactly that: “your position.”
Step 2: Replace yourself
In churches that don’t have a clear line of succession, there is often a spirit of competitiveness. When a leader refuses to train someone for their responsibilities, it’s either because they don’t think the trainee can do the job, or because the apprentice might do it better. Either approach promotes an atmosphere where position is more important than people. When you decide that the ministry is more important than you or your pride, you will gladly train others to do your job and hope that they can do it better.
Step 3: Let it go
Another reason that churches don’t transition well is because the person replacing himself doesn’t give his replacements enough room to grow. Once you have trained someone else how to do your job, let him or her do it. Be their biggest cheerleader, and then look for how you can expand the ministry God has entrusted to you.
When you successfully replace yourself, you will see the following things happen in your church or ministry:
- People in the organization see those around them as “partners” and not competitors.
- Those that train others will have their skills sharpened because they are taught to clearly communicate what they do.
- The organization doesn’t fall apart when you leave, but achieves new success fostered by a fresh perspective.
Terry Scalzitti is associate pastor for adult and family ministries at First Baptist Fort Lauderdale, a fast-growing downtown multi-cultural church with more than 70 nations represented. Terry and his team have spent the last six years transitioning the church to the Orange Strategy. A focus of that initiative emphasizes leveraging Orange principles for parents who are not yet connected to the local church. During the summer, Terry provides leadership training at Camp KidJam. He and his wife Jennifer have a son, Connor, and spend their free time enjoying the outdoors and watching Terry’s beloved Chicago Cubs.