Transition versus Change

Which is the real Gulf Fritillary?

As I write this I am getting ready to change planes in the Atlanta Airport. I am prepared for certain changes; the next plane I get on should be larger, it will head north rather than southwest, and it will be in the air longer (I hope). As major as these changes are, they are not a transition. I think its important in our churches and in our individual lives to distinguish change from transition. Change is a constant part of life. We may initiate changes or they may happen to us, but they do not fundamentally alter our identity, or the way we go about our lives. Transition, however, radically shifts who we are and the procedures we use to accomplish our dreams.


In short:

  • Transition involves a major shift in expectations and values that leads to new operating procedures
  • Transition occurs over a period of time and has a middle ground place (the wilderness) which is not like what is before or what comes after. Having a process helps us travel through this middle ground. 
  • The journey of transition forces us to acknowledge what is lost and affirm our ownership over what will be gained
  • Transitions can be healthy or disastrous. The chances of success are greatly improved when trained experts (Intentional Interims for churches and therapists for individuals) are involved.


Being willing to label a season of transition in the church as a designated special time is the healthy way to respond to leadership failure or misconduct, major conflicts, or fundamental shifts in the congregation’s neighborhood or missional vision. When you are in transition, look for help, and remember the motto:

“The process is always more important than any one result or decision.”