Lay Leadership During Days Of Transition

Bridge Over the River

By Skip Schlafer
Transition is stressful. We’ve all been there at one time or another for one reason or another. Whether couch potato or activist, transition is a challenge. For the couch potato, it is especially stressful when the pulpit is empty – the pastor/priest is no longer in residence. For the activist, it is also stressful suggesting opportunities for change without clerical guidance. No matter how you identify yourself, the time between a known clergy leader and a yet to be revealed clergy leader change is a hectic one.

I relate to Danaan Parry’s The Parable of the Trapeze with his image of a trapeze artist swinging comfortably along, hanging onto a trapeze bar with a known clergy person and seeing a new unoccupied trapeze bar swinging freely ahead. The trapeze artist knows that a decision is imminent. One must release the old bar and make the leap toward the new, the artist must take a leap of faith.

Two churches come to mind- one a historic congregation with an aging campus and the other an established congregation with needed property upgrades. Both were in transition, moving from years of strong clerical leadership to seeking a new leader. Both had needs. The historic congregation had immediate property needs, namely their slate roof was falling off. The established congregation acknowledged a fiscal responsibility; they needed to repay forgiven funds borrowed from their endowment years earlier for a campus update. Both wanted to be prepared for new clergy leadership. Both considered the possibility (and consequences) of waiting for a new clergyperson to arrive. They questioned – would a capital campaign during the honeymoon days of new clergy leadership be a wise decision or should current issues be addressed now rather than at a future time?

The historic congregation decided to move ahead. They coupled the immediate need of replacing their slate roof with an upgrade to their church building – adding an enlarged narthex to their historic structure. It resulted in the dual success of a capital campaign combined with their annual stewardship campaign leaving their new clergy leader worry-free to immediately focus on ministry.

The established congregation has also decided to move ahead. They have coupled their fiscal responsibility with additional campus upgrades to make their facilities safer and more “user” friendly. They, too, have decided to combine a capital campaign with their annual stewardship campaign. When their new clergy leader arrives, the emphasis will be on ministry.

Bottom line – creative, dedicated lay leadership during days of transition opens the door to MINISTRY!

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