Characteristics of Churches in Transition

There are several things that will almost always be evident in church’s going through transition (especially a pastoral change). These are not signs that the church is “bad” or that its members are “immature/sinful”; they are simply the things that usually happen as we adjust to change. A church in transition may not experience all of the following, but it will process most of them.

1.     The members of the church feel grief

2.     Church member experience conflict (either open or hidden)

3.     Secrets are made known

4.     There is a new openness to outside help

5.     Low personal self-esteem and low church morale abound

6.     Lagging stewardship (giving)

7.     The infrastructure needs to be rebuilt (the committee structure, or other processes for decision-making).

8.     There is a need for new and stronger communication channels

9.     There is ambivalence about the change(s)

10. People experience a wide (and often opposing) range of emotions.

–Adapted from Temporary Shepherds by Roger S. Nicholson

It is possible to be experiencing these dynamics in such hidden ways that no one is fully conscious of them (not a good thing). These dynamics will affect people’s openness to each other, their objectivity to understand the church’s needs, and the ability to bond with a new pastor.

If a church is sensing four or more of the above, the church is most likely in transition, even if the members have not thought of themselves in transition yet.

“Change is always perceived as loss, which leads to anger” – anonymous

©Mark Kelley 2010

Leave a Reply