Transitions in ministry are traumatic — thus the need for soul-care. The trauma of transitions in ministry rock the ship, and everyone onboard is affected. Pastors, spouses, children, church members, church leaders, and communities are all impacted in greater or lesser ways. In such a brief article each of these cannot be dealt with adequately but must be acknowledged.

Each will deal differently with grief, anger, disappointment, and change; these emotions are experienced in different ways. The ingredients of transition will not be personalized. Feelings are personal and expressed differently, therefore processing experiences are very individualistic. These variables make the experience unique for everyone. Soul-care must seek to understand the experience of each participant and provide care accordingly. 

Our space limitations necessitate focusing only on the pastor and his family. However, churches, church leaders, members, and the community should not be overlooked. The ripples of trauma caused by transition spread throughout the congregation.

Tremors in Transition

Many things contribute to the trauma. Who has initiated the transition? It may be initiated by the pastor, the church leadership, the church community, the denomination, financial pressures, stage of life issues, family contributors, illness, etc. There are a dozen motivators for transition. Some come from within, some from others.

Different Types of Transition

     Type 1
and Voluntary
      Type 2
and Involuntary
Type 3
and Voluntary
Type 4
and Involuntary
  One can readily see that the trauma is greater as you move from type one to type four. The reasons determine the type of transition; to provide effective soul-care, one must assess the reasons for the transition and the impact on all of the persons involved while understanding that each individual or group impacted will respond differently.

Who Cares?

For soul-care to be effective it must come from many sources and as an expression of love growing out to forgiveness and grace.

Care of Pastors and Families in Transition:

• Divine-care
• Self-care
• Family-care
• Peer-care
  • Spiritual-care Group
• Denomination-care
• Church-care
• Professional-care

Each dimension of soul-care could be expanded and illustrated. Transitions are most effectively cared for within the context of a reflective pause — an intentionally designed opportunity that enables reflection on the experience. First, the person must find God in the process and deal with their response. Secondly, they must refocus, rearrange priorities, and envision God’s will for the future. Pain and hurt heal slowly and often require rest and recuperation. 

Biblical Models of Transitions in Ministry

There are many Biblical models of both transition within ministry and transition of ministries from one individual to another. For instance, we see itinerant teaching pastors in the New Testament. There are also many examples of calls to ministry (e.g. Moses, Jeremiah, Samuel, etc.). A helpful study concerning transition of ministry is the transference of ministry from Moses to Joshua, Samuel to his sons, David to Solomon, Elijah to Elisha, John the Baptist to Jesus, Barnabas to Paul, and others. Soul-care is a function of all community members and Paul is explicit about the care of pastors. Every day three pastors in North America leave the ministry to seek other career paths; often this happens as a result of tremors felt in transition. Care is an expression of God’s love and we are His instruments of care.

For more information on this topic, read Glenn’s books, Pastors in Transition: Navigating the Turbulence of Change (available in English or French) and The Web of Life: An Invitation to Live or Die in the Fabric of Community. Both are available for purchase on Amazon or directly from the author by email.

— Glenn is an accomplished writer and a Fellowship Author.