When leaders move on there can be all sorts of issues for the team remaining especially as a new leader is appointed. This is an area of leadership that we need to study further to improve our pattern in YWAM.
To start off this section we have two items:
- There are notes on a lecture by Camille Bishop on Leadership Transformation based on her book the Art of Transition here: Leadership Transition - The Art of Transition.
- Note that in YWAM we seek approval of leadership appointment two levels above the level of leadership (e.g. YWAM centre leader approved at National Level and Regional level above also).
Surviving a Beheading
Graham Grey of Fresh Expressions writes some very relevant words in an edition of the e-Expressions newsletter (December 2010):
"What happens when a founding leader moves on? When we were researching Mission-Shaped Church we discovered that one of the most vulnerable points in the life of a fresh expression or church plant is at that transition. Since the Fresh Expressions initiative began there have been enough examples to confirm that this is a matter needing great care.
In many cases, the moment a leader announces their departure, it may already be too late. Fresh expressions of church need to develop leadership growing cultures. Where there is a main founding leader it is part of their responsibility to empower members and invest in their leadership potential. It is vital that a team is created which shares real responsibility as soon as that is viable. Those pioneers whose primary gift is to found the new, have the responsibility to leave behind a community which can carry on without them. Leaders are better grown for a community rather than for an event. When a leader is very creative it is important that they use their creative gifts to involve others rather than to de-skill others.
When a fresh expression is planted cross culturally the development of indigenous leadership is a priority, although this may also take time. The gospel is a seed which when planted grows into church, a gifted Christian community with its own leaders. When Paul and his team planted churches in Acts they were able to return later and appoint the elders. We need to have similar expectations. Very often the person or persons who proved to be the door keepers into a community who may well become leaders of the fresh expression.
At times the appointment of a new leader from outside will be unavoidable. In that case both the fresh expression and the appointing authority have a responsibility. Most denominations have thorough, if not perfect appointment procedures which involve careful consultation. We need to develop similar rigour and discernment - especially for fresh expressions with full time leaders.
The fresh expression with the 'vacancy' needs to understand its distinctive calling or 'charism'. What lies at the heart of its calling and should be non-negotiable? What does it believe it needs for the next step in being faithful to its calling? No leader should be appointed, let alone imposed, who cannot own that. At the same time there needs to be openness to new gifts that would enrich, rather than contradict the original vision. Denominational authorities need to recognise that it is the 'charism' of a fresh expression and not just the pioneering ability of a new leader, which is key to a successful appointment.
Finally, like all churches, fresh expressions of church need at times to be willing to give away their 'best' leaders because the Holy Spirit is calling them on. This happened in Antioch with Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13). At those times we may trust the same Holy Spirit to raise up new leaders. I have seen this at The Carpenter's Arms, Sandwich, a network congregation near the huge UK manufacturing site of pharmaceutical company Pfizer Global, which has more employees than the population of the town. Over the years most of the leaders have been Pfizer employees. Time after time they were redeployed to the USA by Pfizer and the fresh expression was beheaded again. Time after time, and not without anxiety and difficulty, God brought new leaders through from the congregation. It is possible to survive a beheading."