Over the years I’ve had the privilege of being a part of several church plants and ministry launches. Anticipation, excitement and expectations abound. The beginning of a great race begins.
Over the last while I’ve also witnessed first-hand the closing of some once glorious churches that have enjoyed tremendous seasons of ministry but have since failed and ceased to exist. Discouragement, desperation and frustration set in as they shut the doors. The race is over.
What is it that allows great churches to sustain the challenges of longevity, sustainability and relativity? Like many others I suggest continual leadership is the critical component. “Continual leadership” to me refers to the quality of leadership in time of transitions–pastoral comings and goings as well as other key leadership changeovers.
Continual leadership upholds the vision, values and mission of the church in those seasons of change. Continual leadership happens when the “baton of leadership” is handed off in the “race” of ministry life in the church. Leadership in ministry is often compared to a relay race run by a team of pastors and ministry leaders. The first runner carries a baton. After running a specified distance, the runner hands the baton to the next team member.
The exchange–ministry succession–must occur within a zone a few meters long. Timing is crucial , just as every ministry has a season. If the runners do not exchange the baton within this zone, the team is disqualified (which, in church leadership terms is burnout, heartache, and loss). The length of the race varies and in some relays each team member runs an equal distance, but in others they run different distances.
The relay race is not necessarily won by the team that runs the fastest, but by the team that can successfully pass the baton in the exchange zone. This is continual leadership.
That’s right: races are won or lost in the passing of the baton.
In the race I’m running I’ve received the baton from some amazing people and I’m looking forward with joy and anticipation to the people I get to hand the baton to. I’ve listed below some encouraging resources from folks who are running in the same season as me. I hope they’ll help you to finish strong.
- Ron Edmondson, 7 Ways to Raise up Young Leaders
- James G. Poitras, From Generation to Generation
- Michael Blakley, Passing the Baton to the Next Leader
- Scott Cochrane, Preparing to Pass the Leadership Baton
- Jeff Myers, Passing the Baton
- Dave Earley, Passing the Baton to New Group Leaders
Shalom, Tom Lavigne