Transition Plan

October 2, 2010

You don’t have to look too far into the Pastor For Life blog archive to find that a piece of what we are interested in highlighting, documenting, or noting for Pastors has to do with pastoral transitions. While we don’t catch them all, we try to highlight some of the notable transitions and let you know about them. That way, you can track them too in order to learn from them.

One of the ways that ministry life tends to happen haphazardly is in leadership transitions. I know I’ve seen my fair share of them over 25 years or so of ministry. I wouldn’t be surprised if your observation is similar to mine. MOST of them happen in an ugly and unhealthy manner. Rarely do we see a church transition from one Pastor to another in a gracious and well-led way. For that matter, there are a few transitions I’ve handled in staff leadership positions where I could’ve done a much better job.

Along comes Bob Russell to help us out with his new book, Transition Plan: 7 Secrets Every Leader Needs To Know. I was recently asked by Bob to review the book, and they graciously sent me a complimentary copy to read.

For those who may not have heard of Bob Russell, he led Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky for 40 years. In that time, the church grew to 26,000 in attendance! After transitioning leadership to Dave Stone four years ago, the church is still growing (another rarity in church transitions!).

The thing I liked most about Transition Plan is that Bob comes across so real. This easy to read book (took me just short of 2 hours to get all the way through in one sitting) is filled with personal stories of not just the successes of the transition, but the failures too. Russell not only extrapolates on his thinking for many years before transitioning the church, and how healthy that was, but he goes into some details about where his thinking WASN’T so healthy and things DIDN’T go so well.

The subtitle is a little is a little misleading , 7 Secrets Every Leader Needs To Know. You have to watch for the “list” because he doesn’t break it into 7 chapters (Hint: they are all in one of the chapters). But, be prepared. The list is NOT a “do this, then do that, then do this,…” sort of list. It’s really a list of reflections.

One of the highlights of the book, in my opinion, is that Russell focuses on encouraging leaders to form a transition plan more than he focuses on giving you a specific plan. He acknowledges that every leader (outgoing AND incoming) is different and each church family culture is going to be different, so you have to form the plan taking those factors into account.

I highly recommend this book for anyone in church leadership, or even in business leadership for that matter. Practical, real, honest, and all those things make for good leadership.

Have you read it? What do you think?

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