One of the most common conversations I get into with church leaders centers around succession. Often the conversations are focused on the senior pastor but I have come to believe that every ministry leader, regardless of position, needs to be thinking about succession. Whatever position you are in, you won’t be in that position forever.
Let that sink in for a second. You won’t be here forever. Every ministry leader is an interim ministry leader. We are all temporary.
Because of this, one of the most important things you can do right now is multiply yourself. You may or may not be invited into a future conversation to hire the next you, but you can give your church leadership a few great options by multiplying yourself now.
Here are a few ways to do that.
Identify Your Competencies
What are the skills that are required for you to do what you do? Maybe you need to preach effectively? Maybe budgeting skills are crucial. Perhaps your job requires competencies in the area of discernment and critical thinking. Maybe you need to be able to connect deeply with people and earn their trust.
Whatever it is that you do, the first step toward multiplying yourself is to identify the competencies required for someone in your current role to be successful.
By the way, if you find this task of identifying key skills and competencies challenging, invite people who work with and around you to help you. Often others see what we can’t.
Share the Work
Once you understand what is required for someone to do what you do, it’s time to invite a few people to share the work you do. If you are a preacher, invite someone or a few people into the work of preaching. Pull back the curtain and show them how you build a sermon. Invite them to contribute ideas. Then, give them a shot. Let them preach.
Just a little preview: Whatever work you invite people else into…they won’t be as effective or fast as you, not yet. You have to be okay with this. They’ll get better. And, most importantly, if you don’t start sharing your work, you’ll never identify the people who could someday do what you do.
As you do this, you’ll redirect some people towards roles that better suit their gifts and talents, but you’ll also identify a few people who have strong potential to someday do what you do.
Once you are sharing the work, it’s time to start investing in and developing those who show potential. Teach them what you know, give them feedback, and invite them to share their ideas.
Maybe they will succeed you someday, or maybe they will go on to bless another church with the skills and experience you’ve gifted them with. Either way it’s a huge win.
I know what some of you are thinking. This sounds important but I don’t have the time to really invest in someone who could potentially replace me. This might be true. However, let me encourage you…you don’t have to be the mentor for every competency.
It’s possible that someone else on your staff is a better fit to provide mentoring in a specific competency, or perhaps an elder or even a pastor who serves at a church across town.
A great question to ask is,
“Who else could coach this person in this particular skill?”
Mentoring is a necessary part of multiplying yourself but it doesn’t always have to be you.
Name an Emergency Successor
Here’s an important question that many churches never ask. If something happens to one of our leaders, who will step in and provide immediate leadership?
If there is some sort of crisis, an accident, or an unexpected exit, what’s the short-term plan? Who will step in to lead, to preach, or keep the finances in order? This isn’t fun to think about but it is incredibly important to have a clear emergency plan. I would argue that every significant ministry leadership role should have a plan in place.
Of course, not everyone needs to know the plan, but senior leadership, the board and the person who will be asked to step in should probably know. In fact, it can be a strong vote of confidence for an emerging leader to know that they will be asked to step up in case of a crisis.
One of the most important things you can do as a leader is multiply yourself. This is true when you are an older leader getting close to retirement, and when you are a young leader still growing in effectiveness. I hope this has been helpful!