I heard a story recently about a young man from Ohio who got amnesia while working on a study fellowship in India. He had an unexpected reaction to an anti-malarial drug and woke up not knowing who he was. He wandered down to the train station where he was eventually taken in by the local authorities. They thought he was drug addled and it was some time before his parents from Ohio were contacted. You may be wondering what all this has to do with fixing your church or transition. In time, the young man considered what had happened to him to be a gift. He was for a brief time able to see new things with new eyes, unencumbered by preconceptions and prejudice.
Wherever there is transition, it is helpful to objectify your experience by making a story out of it. When Homer told the story of Ulysses' odyssey, he gave his hearers a way to understand their own journeys. A certain healing and wisdom is offered when we see an actor on stage handle issues similar to the drama of our lives. We take a step back. By viewing our experience as a story, we discover its handles and the places where we can manipulate the outcome (hence the positive use of the word ‘objectify’ above).
One of my favorite TV shows is Love It or List It on HGTV. The show begins with unhappy homeowners explaining how their current home doesn’t work for their family. The show has two hosts, a realtor and a contractor, that promise to rescue the family from their housing dilemma in opposing ways. The contractor, takes the lists of complaints the family has about their house, and with a limited budget, sets about to fix each item. The realtor takes the homeowners on a tour of another house which meets all of their expectations and they can afford to purchase.
Most churches and businesses find it helpful to do exit interviews with employees who are leaving their post for whatever reason. If done with an open attitude, these meetings provide meaningful insights into the health of the organization and spotlight areas of needed change. They also help the departing individual find closure. If you are an exiting church employee or layperson stepping down from a key leadership role, you should request an exit interview. The people you meet with should not just include your supervising committee (PPRC in UMC), but also the other staff and church leadership who understood the nature of your work.
The first thing you should do when moving from one area of ministry to another is count to forty. Before entering into his ministry, Jesus spent forty days in prayer and fasting in the wilderness. He set an example for us. Forty, throughout the Bible, is the number associated with making a transition in a spiritual fashion. When Noah and his family were baptized into a new world, it rained for forty days. When the people of God walked towards the promised land, their GPS said ‘recalculating’ for forty years. When the people of Nineveh were facing certain destruction, a period of forty days was given to them for repentance and prayerful preparation.