Beginning Well – Pastors in Transition

Pastoral Transitions
during COVID 19:
Leaving and Beginning Well

How do we prepare for healthy pastoral transition during a pandemic? What does it look like in this time for a pastor and congregation to say goodbye in meaningful ways, releasing each other for the next phase of life and ministry? Likewise, how does a pastor and congregation say hello and form relationships, laying a meaningful foundation for serving God together in their community?

Ending and beginning well are challenging enough in the best of times, even when the change is positive, but during this global pandemic, moving through these steps of life in ministry will take special care and thoughtfulness. For those in transition—pastors, families, and congregations—reactions can be magnified due to the impact of COVID on their lives. 

Check out the resources offered below.

With all this in mind, the West Virginia Conference is offering resources to assist those moving through pastoral transition in the weeks and months ahead. While it is true that we are not currently able to resource and train for leaving and beginning well in the ways we would prefer; we can make use of other ways to connect you with support and resources for planning this important transition.

Some aspects of transition remain the same:

  1. Saying goodbye. This is vitally important. Congregations and pastors need to define the ending of pastoral relationships and set each other free to begin new ones. Saying goodbye during physical distancing will look different and may be expressed in ways we have yet to anticipate. That doesn’t mean these goodbyes will be any less heartfelt and meaningful. Depending on the relationship, saying goodbye may involve offering appreciation, or asking for or offering forgiveness. It may include worship rituals and symbols that offer meaning beyond what is directly expressed.
  2. Leaving well. Pastors, consider now the legacy you want to leave. Even during disorientation and uncertainty, it is important that responsibilities are cared for in a way that paves the way for hopeful new beginnings. Remaining focused on the mission—to make disciples that transform the world, especially one living through a pandemic—guides the pathway forward, for healthy endings and beginnings. Congregational leaders, you can help pastors leave well through your support in transition planning.
  3. Beginning well. Planning for a healthy beginning starts now. As responsibilities are cared for and goodbyes are said (see #1 and #2), the groundwork is laid for a positive transition. There may be joint introductory letters or videos that help pastors set up their successors well and aid the congregation in anticipating and praying for the transition. Congregational leadership in creative welcome and support will be essential, particularly as COVID impacts our interactions.

As pastors and congregational leaders work together, keeping in mind these essential aspects of transition will help them navigate the impact of pastoral transition. Resources provided here will offer specific tools for each phase of transition.

Remember, we are a part of a connection and part of the larger Body of Christ. If at any point, this transition becomes overwhelming for you, your family, or your congregation, it’s time to ask for help or guidance. Your district superintendent is a key resource and can guide you to additional systems of support as needed, including coaching or counseling. For additional support and resources, we are ready to help: Ken Willard or Bonnie MacDonald.