There is little doubt that new leadership will be needed for your church someday. One of the most important responsibilities of church governance is to ensure a successful succession process when the time comes.

When most people think about church succession planning, the focus often goes to the senior pastor. Leadership succession involves more than one person. Leadership includes the individuals who head ministries, auxiliaries, functional teams and internal departments.

Many churches rely on trained staff and volunteers to carry out their functions. These persons know your procedures and processes. They understand the church’s culture and nuances of the congregation. Knowledgeable leaders have a sense of how to get things done in your church.

When a new leader is needed for a church post, the experiences of the outgoing person should be preserved. This is important to avoid repeating old mistakes.

Church leaders should understand that their fiduciary duty is not a selfish responsibility. Leadership includes the obligation of ensuring the church does not suffer when a transition occurs. This requires leaders to think beyond their tenure.

Church leaders should maintain a written record of their position descriptions, procedures and methods. The records should be kept in a central church office that is accessible to others.

A useful part of succession planning is the designation of likely successors. These are folks who have shown the potential to assume the duties of the leader. Having an heir apparent to a leader should not guarantee the person a promotion. This should mean that qualified candidates will be available when the time comes.

Education and training are vital preparations for eventual successors. Up and coming future leaders should be offered opportunities to attend workshops, classes and conferences on the applicable subject matters. When new leadership is needed, qualified successors will be able step up and deliver.

Finally, a leadership transition can happen at any time. Emergency successions may be unavoidable. However, planned successions can be handled with order and forethought.

Leadership succession will eventually happen at every church and for every position. Proper planning will help ensure your church is ready when the time comes.