NextWarren Bird and William Vanderbloemen have written an excellent and much-needed book about leadership succession within the local church: Next – Pastoral Succession that Works.

The book is based on over 200 case studies and 50 in-depth interviews with pastors and churches who have navigated the succession territory – either effectively or badly. There is much to learn here on this essential topic.

Here are a few key insights and facts from the book:

  1. Every pastor is an interim pastor. The day when a successor takes over will come for everyone in ministry.
  2. Planning for that day of succession may be the biggest leadership task a leader and church will ever face.
  3. Everyone wants to talk about succession … until it's their own.
  4. Dave Travis, CEO of Leadership Network, defines pastoral succession as "the intentional process of the transfer of leadership, power and authority from one directional leader to another."
  5. Equating 'succession planning' with 'retirement planning' is a major error in perception.
  6. The best time to think about pastoral succession is now.
  7. Most churches age with their pastor, the average age in a congregation being about five years younger than their senior pastor's age … unless certain exceptions are in place, including intentionally giving younger leaders ministry opportunity and leadership influence within the church.
  8. 'Founding pastors' (in comparison to 'successors') lead 45% of the largest 100 churches in the USA. Will they stay too long, like many pastors? Unfortunately, the average pastor steps aside only after 8-10 years of attendance decline.
  9. Newer churches tend to draw younger people. Long-established churches are often dominated by an older age group. 
  10. The average age difference between an outgoing pastor and successor is 22 years (taken from a sample of 100 well-known pastor successions). 

To check out my own take on this important subject, based on our two leadership transitions at CityLife over our 47 year history, see my book Pass the Baton: Successful Leadership Transition.

Is it time for you to pass the baton?