How many times have you heard leaders share that they are considering a “new ministry” opportunity? Sometimes, it is a natural response to the monotony of life; other times it is a case of the “grass is greener” fallacy. In other circumstances, a leader might find themselves in a leadership boundary they need to navigate in order to move forward into the next season of their development. When I coach leaders who are in personal transitions I like to highlight three phases:
- Pre-transition: the time leading up to a transition where you sense a change coming, begin to pave the way and explore future ministry assignments.
- Transition: announcing the change, resigning your current role and bringing closure in the healthiest manner possible to leave the organization in a healthier condition than when you arrived.
- Post-transition: now in your new role doing the necessary actions to help you establish a new normal, building trust with new colleagues and engaging in the learning curve to adapt to your new team culture.
When coaching leaders through transitions I’ve borrowed three helpful questions from the Focused Living Retreat Workbook:
- Where have you been?
- Where are you going?
- How will you get there?
Seek Outside Help
I remember when I first came across a process that addressed question #1 – Where have you been? – I was a third year seminary student. During my three years at seminary I was involved neck-deep in a new church plant. I also had some personal drama in the background of my life including losing my mom to cancer during the first year of seminary. In fact, the weekend the church went public I was on Spring Break at my mom’s bedside and was home when she passed. About mid-way through my third year of seminary I had a come to Jesus moment and was told my services were no longer needed at the church plant by the lead planter. I was a hot mess!
The final quarter of seminary I took a Leadership Development course. My instructor, Dr. Gordon Klenck had returned from a 30-year stint as a missionary in what was formerly Eastern Europe. During his doctoral work at Fuller Seminary he was taking a course entitled Leadership Emergence Theory from Dr. Robert Clinton. The material was in the formative stages but the process helped me understand the process I had been in, how to turn the corner from the disappointment of the church plant and then focus on what I would eventually do following graduation. The exercise paved the way to synthesize my values in a way that helped me navigate the next season for my ministry development and set me on the trajectory that I continue on to this day.
When I coach others in that process I use the book “Stuck – Navigating the Transitions of Life & Leadership”, by Terry Walling to orient people to the leadership timeline Clinton developed. I help them dig deeper into boundaries that separate one phase from another, take action and transition well. I would highly recommend this book. Perhaps the best advice I have on the topic is to enlist a trusted friend, colleague or coach who will help you process the three phases of a transition noted above.
Coaching for Personal Transitions
The process of discerning God’s will is not formulaic, nor is it linear; it is more like spaghetti. Imagine twirling your fork in a pile of noodles, finding a few that land on your utensils and into your mouth. This illustrates how the discernment process works. Once a leader has a sense that she/he is in transition, they begin the journey of twirling their fork. Going through this process in collaboration with a coach can help a leader move intentionally and fruitfully through a transition period.
10 questions to discern if you are in transition:
- What excites you about your current ministry?
- Are you becoming restless in your current role?
- Do you find yourself wandering about new challenges?
- Are other people noticing that your level of enthusiasm and passion is beginning to wane?
- Do you sense your time is coming to an end where you are currently serving?
- What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
- Where do you sense the Lord leading you in the future?
- Who do you know that could help you navigate the questions above?
- What tools have you used to help leaders assess where they are in their life and ministry development?
- Which tool would be most helpful for you to use to take the next step in your journey?