It's charge/church conference season in The United Methodist Church.
This is the time of year when budgets are approved, salaries are set for the clergy on staff and new leadership is elected for the year ahead. It's important in this time of transition to make sure all important knowledge and information is communicated from the outgoing leaders to the incoming leaders.
Throughout this time, there are important roles for all church leaders, even if you are not one of those changing roles.
The process of selecting new leaders often starts with the committee on nominations and leadership development. The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church says, “The charge of this committee is to identify, develop, deploy, evaluate and monitor Christian spiritual leadership for the local congregation.” The committee needs to play a role in assuring new leaders have what it takes to be successful even before they begin their terms.
Initially, the committee can assist with the changes in leadership by providing the new leaders with the names of other leaders, both for the current year and the year ahead. New leaders who will chair teams should have lists of all the members and their contact info for both the current year and year ahead. These lists allow the new leaders to be in communication with other leaders.
Outgoing leaders and continuing chairs of teams with changing team members also should be provided with names of the new leadership and their new team members. It’s best for all leaders on any side of this transition process to take the initiative to communicate about the transition so that it’s not delayed.
Those who are being nominated for new leadership positions should plan to attend the charge or church conference at which they are to be elected even if they are not currently members of the charge conference. This is a good place to hear an overview of what is happening within the current teams as they provide reports of their work in the past year. It may also be helpful for the body to see who you are, if they don’t already know you, before they vote you into office.
If you are an outgoing leader or chair of a team with new members about to come on board, it would be most helpful for you to proactively pull information together for the new leader and/or team members. If you have digital copies of this information, it may be best to share them via a cloud storage service like Dropbox or Google Drive. These services are among the nine awesome tools for managing virtual teams that we recommend.
Meeting minutes, reports and budgets are all valuable materials to pass on. It would also be helpful to include lists of important contacts and dates. Other helpful materials will vary based on the specific leadership role. These could include details about recent or future events planned and passwords to enable access to social and technology accounts necessary to the role. Passwords may be shared securely via password management tools such as LastPass and 1Password. This is an important part of cybersecurity for churches.
Lastly, it will be valuable for each set of incoming and outgoing leaders to have a conversation about their ministry. This will be a time for the outgoing leader to share lessons learned, thoughts about future direction and verbal support to the new leader. In turn, the new leader may have questions particularly if this area of ministry is completely new.
Transitions are important for all organizations. Communication between leaders is important to so that changes go smoothly and the momentum of ministry contines. Let your New Year’s resolution be to equip new leaders and in all things to pray for one another.
The United Methodist Book of Worship has a litany for welcoming new leaders. Using the litany in worship enables the entire congregation to be a part of the prayer support for all of the new leaders. It is always great to make welcoming church leaders a rich experience.
May the new year in your congregation be full of blessings, including wonderful communication.
Andrew J. Schleicher is a senior project specialist with United Methodist Communications, an ordained deacon and a certified Christian communicator.