Responding to God’s Invitation to be Intentional about Succession


July 31, 2017

I am grateful for the godly legacy of my parents.  As some of you are aware, my dad died a month ago, and it was one year ago July when my mom passed.  So, within the span of just one year I have lost both parents.

At the ages of 86 and 90, neither was a surprise.  There were plenty of signs that the inevitable would come at some point in the not-too-distant future.  It wasn’t a matter of if but when.  And as I reflect on this recent journey, one of the many things I am grateful for is the time we spent in advance to prepare.  What a difference it has made.

This story of legacy and succession is not only a part of every family, it is also a part of the story of every congregation.  Succession is an inevitable reality in your life as a leader and in your journey together as a congregation; therefore, it’s worth giving it significant consideration in advance.

In fact, one of the beautiful signs of a healthy leadership team is the ability to openly dialogue on this topic without it being threatening or creating a climate of anxiety.  It does not serve our congregations well to ignore the inevitability of succession or live in denial of its reality.

Perhaps in some way the following story is theirs to tell, but let me give you a brief glimpse into what recently unfolded at Arbor Heights Community Church in West Seattle. Ken Ross came to Arbor Heights over a decade ago to be the Lead Pastor.  Several years into the process, he began intentionally looking for who God might raise up to be his successor.  Eventually, a young man began attending the church who demonstrated the capacity and calling toward pastoral ministry.  As Ken discipled him, they began exploring this possibility together.  In time, this led to an open dialogue with the leadership team. This man was John Lindow, the current Lead Pastor of Arbor Heights.

As Ken’s departure began to take on more clarity, he contacted our office to invite us into the process.  As we came alongside the leadership of the church to coach them through the transition, God used the process to confirm His calling on John’s life to become the next pastor.  He was installed as Lead Pastor at Arbor Heights this past April.

This is a beautiful example of a leader responding to God’s invitation to be intentional about succession—looking for who God is raising up, investing in them, carrying the conversation forward—all for the sake of being faithful in creating an opportunity for a healthy handoff from his leadership to the next.

How open are you to the conversation about succession?  How intentional are you about planning for the inevitable?  Is there anyone in close proximity to you whom God may be calling to pastoral leadership?  What will succession look like for you and your church?  We’d love to have a conversation with you about succession.

If you would like to talk more about planning for succession, email me at dennis@alliancenw.org. Planning early can create a beautiful story for your church.