Man holding a Bible on a road
Ben White / Unsplash

The apostles hit a bump in the road early in their transition from traveling disciples to community builders. Although there was an established practice of believers sharing possessions (Acts 4:32), a group of Greek-speaking widows felt their needs were not being met. Conflict ensued, and the apostles had to come up with a solution to keep the fledgling church from splintering. Acts 6:1-7 tells us the apostles faithfully discerned a way forward by creating a new leadership group to ensure everyone’s needs were met.

An argument about food may not seem relevant to the topic of pastoral leadership transitions, but when we reflect on the situation in Acts 6, it shines a light on the types of questions that arise whenever we begin in a new ministry setting: who doesn’t feel heard and seen? How do different demographic groups experience belonging in the congregation? Are we prepared to address pressing matters with the necessary urgency as well as with care and grace? Do we understand our leadership role at this moment in the life of the congregation?

Whether you serve a congregation by the appointment of a bishop or are called through the work of a search committee and vote of the congregation, pastoral transitions are exciting and fragile times in the life of the leader and the congregation. If you’re going through a transition or expect to experience one soon, how will you manage the process with intentionality? Be sure to pay close attention to the operational, spiritual and emotional dynamics that influence the community. Starting in a new ministry role is hard work. Set yourself up to do it well.


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Before you go…

Each time I’ve transitioned to a new congregation, I’ve tried to apply lessons I learned in the past. Every situation is going to be different, but I can say that when you’re new, it’s essential to take the time to listen to stories. Set aside time to hear personal stories as well as stories about the congregation. Perhaps during your first 100 days, you can schedule small group meetings to pose a generative question. Then sit back, listen and take notes. Find out what people’s hopes are. What are their dreams for the church? More than likely, you will be amazed (and encouraged!) by what you hear. This doesn’t mean the work is going to be easy. There will be problems to solve, just like there were in Acts 6. But when we do our part, the Holy Spirit will lead the way through.

As always, you can reach me and the Alban Weekly team at Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity