“So, who will be taking your place?” Dana said. She had just heard the news about Anderson’s impending transition. “Rashad will,” replied Anderson. Smiling gladly, Dana responded, “I am not surprised.”
Seamless transitions are essential in ministry. Whether we are being promoted, retiring, or joining another industry, our roles involve relationships that have been invested into deeply; and therefore requires intentional preparation. You do not have to take my word for it though.
We have seen this before. Jesus spent years investing into the disciples to ensure our presence in the family of believers today. The Israelites made it to the promised land, thanks to Joshua, but Moses paved the road for him. David to Solomon, Elijah to Elisha, Paul to Timothy, and so on.
Passing the baton is vital for true success. Let us be honest. Though the best-case scenario would be for leaders to stay in their roles indefinitely, to maximize the influence and depth of the relationship, that is not realistic these days. Leadership positions can change pretty fast. I have witnessed transitions within a couple of years, one year, and even less than a year. Regardless of the length of time these leaders were in position, a good transition plan makes all of the difference. Handing off leadership is challenging yet essential.
In a world where personal platforms are so important, it is easy for us to forget how important it is to leave previous platforms in good hands. I mean, how successful were we if the ministry falls into pieces upon our departure? Did we set ourselves up for success or those who will come afterwards?
No matter what stage of leadership we are in, we need to think about how we will pass the baton when the time comes for us to move on. Whether this is our first day on the job or if we are soon transitioning, it will be wise of us to think of three passes: Leadership, Generation, and Jesus.
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Identify apprentices, protégés, disciples, trainees or whatever you want to call them. Discover who can take the reins when or if you transition from that role. Though we will eventually hand off our responsibility to one person, two to three is a good number to invest in. Just as life happens, causing transitions for us, the same is true for our apprentices.
Over time, we will realize which of those leaders is the best fit. And through a series of intentional practices, we will be able to introduce them upon our exit with little to no dramatics.
Passing the baton to another leader is one thing, but passing it to the next generation is another. As we lead, there will be a handful of individuals that will be “ours.” Yes, we are responsible for our entire flock, however there are a few that we get to invest a little more into. These are the ones that we can pass many of the same values, skills and wisdom that we will pass on to the leaders that replace us.
With both of these passes, we are casting a wider net. There will be people that we could not influence, yet the new leader will. Likewise, there will be people in the next generation that we could not influence. Yet, because of the Generation Pass, the ones from that generation will influence them.
Some time ago, Jesus changed your life. For most of us, someone passed or helped pass Him to us. Now it is our turn. Throughout our leadership journey, our greatest responsibility is to create disciples of Jesus. It is fantastic that we will have the wonderful opportunity to pass our contributions to the next leader and next generation. But how much more thrilling is it to pass on Jesus?
Let’s remember this pass first. As we look to identify apprentices and those from the next generation, let us remember when Jesus chose us. He chose us unconditionally—flawed and all. The receivers of the batons do not need to be perfect. They do not have to be “worthy.” No biblical leader was.
We have the privilege of passing on our skills, wisdom and values. Let us encourage them to take those tools and make them their own. And as they do, we get to witness Jesus use them to remarkably impact generations to come.
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