Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight. (v. 6)
Moving on can be exciting. Exploring the new place can be fun. Meeting new people and making new friends can be rewarding and stimulating. However, this comes with the cost of letting go of past connections, which can be painful and confusing.
I recently followed a Facebook post about the confusing relationship between pastors who once served a congregation, those parishioners, and their current pastor. Some tell the former pastor to move, sever all ties and have no further contact with former parishioners. Some former pastors continue to behave as though little has changed except they no longer attend council meetings or preach there. I doubt either extreme works well for anyone.
The same challenges confront any person who has assumed a leadership role and then moves or retires from it.
Leaving a place or position is like going on a road trip. There can be only one driver at a time. Passengers may assist by watching for signs and landmarks or following the map or pulling up information on a GPS system. But only one person at a time can actually drive the car. Drivers often have a difficult time relinquishing control of the steering wheel to sit in the passenger seat. However, if the passenger cannot trust the driver to steer, decide how fast to go or when to pass, or apply the breaks, it is going to be a miserable trip.
Managing relationships with former parishioners, employees, volunteers, and neighbors, is more about intuition and art than instructions and science. Each situation is different. Each situation requires maturity and sensitivity to the other’s situation.
A few years ago I was a consultant for a congregation where the out-going and the in-coming pastors handled the transfer of leadership with maturity, grace, and wisdom.
Former pastor retired and took interim assignments for a couple of years and so was too busy with new situations to be involved with the former congregation. That didn’t stop parishioners from contacting him anyway with their disappointments in New Pastor. Former Pastor would calmly and with humor tell them, “You know, I’d always thought we should have been doing that, but I just didn’t get around to it. I’m glad New Pastor is getting that done.”
After a couple of years Former pastor was ready to retire for good. There were no other congregations nearby where he and his wife could worship and they didn’t want to move away from their children and grandchildren. New pastor was sensitive to this as he and his wife had chosen to accept this call in order to be nearer their parents so their grandchildren could spend more time with them.
New pastor invited Former pastor to become part of the Campaign Leadership team. Former Pastor was given the role of visiting members to talk with them about the campaign. Everyone won. New Pastor had a built-in cheerleader. The parishioners were delighted to spend time with beloved Former Pastor. Former Pastor delighted in conversations with people he’d known for many years and was a tremendous help in the Campaign work.
When we focus less on what we want and more on what is best for the well-being of the community overall, the transition goes more smoothly. When we let our egos and desire to control guide us, we can unintentionally do great harm to the communities we have loved and cherished.
Letting go – Relocating Tip # 4
When we leave a place, we have to hand over the keys and leave the driving to the next person. Once we leave a situation or place, we can go back – but only to visit and only as a guest.