Leadership transitions can be drawn out and difficult. So when the time came to transition from church leadership back to a writing ministry, I was anxious to begin the process right away. Since we were in the middle of a move, I entered my transition season off tilt. I had hoped to avoid problems by arranging my new schedule around the move, so I dedicated a full week to unpacking. Two weeks later, a mass of bulging boxes still occupied our garage, and I chaffed with impatience.
I had so many ideas for writing projects. “Lord, I just want to move forward!” I said as I prayed for guidance as to which projects to pursue. But a host of unexpected tasks sabotaged every attempt to start anything new. First, there were half a dozen trips to Target for brackets, bolts, shelves, and supplies. Then trips to Home Depot. Then off to the grocery store. Every day held the same rhythm; start, stall, stop — until I thought I’d scream with frustration.
Quit pushing. The Lord’s voice barely pinged my radar. I felt like every drop of life-giving, creative juice within me was getting sucked into the empty boxes lining the driveway, into the endless trips into town, into the myriad of meals required at the end of what felt like 36 hour days.
Finally, the unpacking pace slowed. My office was in place, but my thoughts were scattered. Though I had carefully preserved my quiet time throughout the ordeal, I struggled to focus. I felt exhausted, but restless. Too tired to think, but too agitated to be still.
Does this sound familiar? No matter how much we plan, leadership transitions are often difficult and unpredictable. They require patience, flexibility and a commitment to God’s agenda over our own. Before we can experience the transformation that God has built into our seasons of transition, we have to stop fighting its bumpy process. Because I was impatient to get started on a new path, I made the transition especially difficult, both for my family and me.
Perhaps you need a “Do over” as much as I did. Perhaps you need a chance to remember to slow down, pray and embrace the power of God in your transition season.
Here are three steps to propel your transition into transformational leadership:
1. Allow time to heal. No matter how wonderful or wounding your prior ministry, allow time for letting go: Of roles and routines. Of hurts or damaged relationships. Of a love of sameness and familiarity. Of being “in the loop” of prior ministry concerns. Of unrealized dreams or regret over “what could have been.”
By leaping straight into a new season, I missed God’s liberating “Selah,” the opportunity to pause, process, and purify my heart before moving ahead.
2. Allow time just to sit and be. No agenda, no prayers for guidance. Just sitting in a quiet place letting our minds wander unscripted into whatever avenues unfold. Whether it’s reflecting on the prior season, admiring the beauty in the trees around us, or simply staring into space thinking about everything. About nothing.
By skipping this restorative step, I missed the opportunity to decompress, declutter my heart and mind, and to prepare to hear from God.
3. Allow time to think and pray. Perhaps you know where God is leading you for the next season of ministry or perhaps not. Either way, we can look beyond what is familiar and ask questions like:
• Fo what new areas of ministry did I discover an affinity?
• What hidden skills has God drawn out and developed that He may want to use in this new season?
• How can the challenges I experienced make me a stronger leader for God’s kingdom?
Because I ran ahead of God, my leadership efforts stemmed from my own strength resulting in burnout — before I even got started!
Though being still isn’t easy, we can be encouraged; while inactivity may suggest a lack of movement, it doesn’t reflect a lack of growth. As counterintuitive as it sounds, allowing space to rest, reflect, and process carries us forward. And it’s in that space that transformation takes place as God knits ministry seasons together to empower our work for him and finish his work in us. It just takes a little patience. And patience does its best work when it’s given time to grow.
Bethany Macklin is a writer, speaker and ministry leader who has served more than 25 years in Christian leadership. She has served as a regional leadership trainer for Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) and as Women’s Ministry Director of a thriving church in Northern California. She writes Bible studies on God’s attributes for area churches and has written for Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family, Today’s Christian Woman and other online outlets. As a blogger, she paints a Biblical portrait of God through words that encourage anchored faith and Biblical thinking.