Art of Transitional Ministry: Beginnings, Systems, and Leadership


Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes. -Billy Joel

Tuesday was a fire hydrant of information and resources, and I got laid out by it throughout the day, played in it a little like a child in the summer, and sometimes ran from its overwhelming deluge. Overall it was a quick dip into a framework for the aspects of transitional work in terms of call, church, and change. Of course, change and transition were the most important components but it was talked a little about in logistical terms. One faculty showed clips from the movie Moneyball – which incidentally I’m sad I forgot to see but will for sure when I get back – and the scenes showing Billy Bean working, negotiating, angling, and finally seeing a new angle to the game paralleled much of the kind of challenges of interim work. The overarching conflict for the guys around the table looking for players to replace the ones that left was how to keep going as is but Bean was feeling and looking at it differently. He saw the potential to play – and win – that could change baseball. This was the difference between technical and adaptive change. It’s easy to change players…but to change the way they play as a team? And even the game itself? There’s insanity and courage there, and it’s necessary.

It seems the biggest resistance to change is heritage and history especially when all that is seen with nostalgia. “That was the golden age.” And there are stories of the past that come up like inside jokes, relics that line the hallways of the church, dusty plaques on the walls of classrooms, and pews that are worn in because one family has made it theirs for generations. And yet, the ye old traditions and rituals aren’t all bad. They aren’t all a reason for a church’s eventual demise. They can be a way to flesh out a church’s deprived body, and put meat in the bones, and a way to recover some authentic identity. But like our human bodies there needs to be growth, and that comes from engagement, conflicts, and change.

At some point there was a lot of systems theory and thank goodness for Dropbox. I maybe did 2 weeks of it in a seminary class more than 10 years ago so can’t remember much but it resonated again – to look at the systems of my familie, the families in the church, and the church as a family in this transitional work. How are people communicating? Who’s in charge of the coffee? What has been around forever? What was tried of and given up? What does it all mean? Doing this work clears the way for cultivating new leaders. And that’s ultimately who will help lead the transitional work up until calling the new installed pastor. So we need to make space for new blood to come in and become a part of the whole body but also dream their dreams for the church.

The night before we were led in Bible Study by Dennis Olson and looked at the story of Moses and his transitional ministry. A close reading of three stories – when Moses was discovered by Pharaohs’s daughter, when Moses killed the Egyptian, and when Moses lived in Midian and got married. Olson offered a powerful promise about how Moses’ call was shaped by his life circumstances – his growing up in a Hebrew home, and then the Egyptian palace, and then in the Midian wilderness. While it seems like his life was in constant flux and a state of in-betweenness, he was the outsider, and yet God took him to be the one who would be “the ruler and judge” over the Hebrew people, and leading them to the promised land. I can only imagine that how he would loathe this calling remembering his history, and feeling that homelessness all throughout, and the inadequacies from it, but when God comes to him in the burning bush, and commands him to remove his shoes, God is welcoming Moses home. Go into any Korean home and you will see shoes lined up by the door. Everyone is welcomed in without their shoes, a sign of intimacy and family. Moses was finally home. And this new relationship with God would change everything and be everything as Moses stepped into this leadership and journey.

Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. -Psalm 84:5

One thought on “Art of Transitional Ministry: Beginnings, Systems, and Leadership

  • October 17, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    finally home

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