I was reminded recently about the importance of leadership transitions in ministry. Many times a transition in leadership is performed based upon a prospective leader’s credentials, experience, and track record. While all three of these are helpful criteria to consider, there is something missing.

The missing ingredient is consideration of the prospect’s philosophy and vision as compared to the outgoing leadership. Assuming that your church or ministry wants to build on the outgoing leader’s work (I realize this isn’t always the case), a similar philosophy and vision are essential for the task!

Just think, if you hire someone based upon credentials, experience and track record, that may just mean they are the most qualified candidate to steer you away from your current direction.

Many churches have suffered from constantly changing vision over the course of multiple pastorates. While all of the visions and philosophies of the pastors may have been good, effective ministry is typically found among a consistent vision over the long run.

Most healthy churches possess multiple generations of people who have bought into the same vision. Although it may have been tweaked, revised, or improved over the years, the vision is the same.

Can you image the potential of a church whose members are all on the same page, working for the same goal utilizing the same strategy? When the youngest to the oldest all agree, things tend to progress more easily.

Of course, the alternative is a disaster: multiple generations gathering together with different values, visions, and philosophies for ministry. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Actually, it sounds like many of the established churches I know.

That’s why I believe your ministry’s next leadership transition is crucial. There are many good men out there with great visions and philosophies of ministry. However, the one you need is the one who will carry on the vision already established –unless the vision needs a major course correction (that sounds like a great idea for a later blog post).

Here are some suggestions to help you make the next leadership transition a success:

1)   Define the present vision first. If nobody knows, that is a sign that you do not have a vision. If everybody knows, that is probably a sign that the vision is well communicated and powerful.

2)   Determine whether the members of the ministry agree the vision should remain the same. This is critical for churches and ministries who have been crippled by poor leadership or a faulty vision. Don’t be guilty of perpetuating a bad philosophy of ministry.

3)   If you determine the vision needs to change, spend ample time developing the new vision before requesting resumes. Candidates for the position need to know what you are looking for. Remember, they are just as vulnerable in this process as you are. Be fair to them by doing the hard work up front. Hiring an interim to help walk through this process may be wise.

4)   Choose your method for selecting a new leader only after you have solidified the vision. Don’t get the cart before the horse. Its too hard to reign in after it gains speed.

5)   Agree on questions regarding vision and philosophy that should be asked of every candidate. Further, list criteria, specific experiences, and traits that the leader will need to hold. If you don’t know what you are looking for on a resume, you will be impressed by almost anything.