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June 26, 2011

I’ve been hearing and saying this word a lot over the past few months—transition. Lately the word has two meanings that are familiar to me: triathlon transitions and pastoral transitions. In a triathlon you have two transition times. 1. From swim to bike. 2. From bike to run. This is where you run into the transition area, dispose of your gear from the first event, and put on your gear for the next event. It can be tempting to take your time to sit down, wash the sand off your feet, thoroughly dry them, grab some water or a snack, rest for a minute while putting on your bike gear, and then continue in the race. Tempting as it may be, your transitions are timed. They count as part of the race and add to your overall finish time.

There’s not much time to dwell on what went wrong on the first part of the race because your thoughts must now be focused on what’s ahead. So a quick and focused transition is always best. But rush too much and you may forget something essential, like fastening your helmet strap, or clipping on your race number belt. Without proper safety and proper identification, you may be sent back to transition. It can be a time of anticipation, anxiety, excitement and exhaustion all at once. It seems to be the kind of thing that improves with practice and patience, and a good deep breath.

The pastoral transition happens annually in the North Georgia Conference. Not every pastor moves every year, but there is always that chance. The Bishop and his cabinet decide who needs to go where based on the pastor’s gifts and graces and the churches’ needs. A lot of prayer and discernment go into sending the right pastor to the right congregation. Transitioning to a new church can also be filled with anticipation, anxiety, excitement and exhaustion all at once. Typically I’ve been the one who is moving. I’ve worked at 5 different churches in the last 9 years.  So this year I am grateful that it is not my turn to move.

However, our church has said goodbye to our old pastors and will be receiving two new ones, our senior pastor and our youth associate. It is my turn to welcome the new guys and help them feel at home and find their place in the ministry of the church. I’m sure for them, and the members of our congregation, there are mixed emotions. There’s a tendency to hold onto the last pastor or the last appointment, to dwell on what could’ve been handled better. Or there’s a tendency to rush ahead and act as though the church and pastor have known each other for years and automatically understand each other’s passions, flaws, gifts and needs.

It takes a little bit of time; a little bit of transition to make sure the overall ministry flows smoothly. It takes a few changes of gear, or thoughts, to prepare for a new way of serving together. You can’t spend too much time in transition, because there is definitely important ministry to be done. But to all of my friends and colleagues going through transition: whether from bike to run or from pulpit to pulpit, here is my prayer for you. 1. Take a deep breath. 2. Remember practice and patience. 3. Leave mistakes in the past, but carry with you lessons learned. 4. Have fun. 5. Remember why you’re doing this in the first place. I do it for the love of God. I hope you do too.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill permalink
    June 26, 2011 5:58 pm

    Beautifully written! I continue to be so impressed with your ability to apply life lessons and incorporate them into your ministry. Those who are fortunate enough to minister along side of you within your congregation are indeed fortunate to have such a wonderful partner along the path! I find it a blessing to count you as my friend! ~ Bill

  2. Heather permalink
    June 26, 2011 9:51 pm

    What a great word Julie. May we all transition with both speed and focus for what God is calling us to next!

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