So, You Are Moving! 10 Things to Remember During a Transition

file0001207444674 This weekend is a transition week for The Salvation Army in the South! Officers (ministers) have received their farewell orders and will be leaving their congregations and communities that they have poured heart and soul into for other “harvest fields.” While officers are aware of this reality during the training period, reality still sets in and feels differently from the classroom. But, the Army needs to keep moving forward!

Having gone through this process before and expecting to go through it again a few more times, here are 10 things that I have learned throughout the experience. While this is coming from the perspective of Army officership, I think you will see that they can be applied across many disciplines.

1. Your family is moving with you!

It is important to remember that when ministers move, their families move with them. They are leaving friends and relationships as well. They are leaving schools they know and places they care about. They may not always respond well. They do not dislike where they are going, but it is not home. They are leaving home to go there. It will take a while until it feels like home. Also, involved in this, if a child or family member has other neurological concerns, the adjustment time can be even longer. Patience is what is required, not judgement! Actually, for that matter, leave judgement out of the equation all together.

Patience is what is required, not judgement!

2. It is OK to be excited about the new assignment or location.

There is a plan for you when you get to the new location. It is not disrespectful to where you are now to be excited about where you are going. One of the advantages to moving and transition is the new life and energy that the new people are bringing to the location. Bring the joy! Bring the new ideas! Bring the energy! You are going there for a reason. Somebody saw something in you that they wanted there!

3. It is OK to miss the location and people you are leaving.

While it is OK to be excited about where you are going, it is also OK to be sad or miss where you are now. You have spend a lot of time with the people at your current place. You have invested in lives and, in return, they have invested in yours. It is natural to miss those relationships and to grieve for the change. I would be more worried about people who do not miss the people they spent so much time with. In fact, if you do not miss them, maybe you were not that close!

This is connected to #4…

4. Remember that the people where you are going are connected to your predecessor!

When you get to your new assignment or place, remember that the people at the new place are going to be missing the people that you are replacing. You need to respect the fact that they may need time to grieve and get through the change. It will feel like a loss to them. It may even feel like a betrayal. They may not be able to explain themselves. They may even lash out at you. They may even refer to your predecessor over and over. You will be compared to them. You will be measured against them. Get over your ego! The people before you did a great job! Admit it. Praise them for it. Copy some of it. Give them credit for it.

You need to respect the fact that they may need time to grieve and get through the change.

5. You do not know why things were done before you got to the new place. So, keep your opinions to yourself!

From why the piano is positioned in a certain place to why certain employees have different starting times in the morning to the reason behind the schedule of a certain department, there are usually very good reasons why certain things are done certain ways. Even thought they may need to be changed, your opinion on why it was done in the first place does not help the situation. This is an area that I often struggle with because my personality type is one of being a “fixer.” I have heard a lot of advice in this area. Some people say wait 90-180 days before making any major changes. This analogy breaks down when something needs to be changed because it is adversely affecting the health of your organization. In those cases, you need to get it done! I have also been told the “paint a wall” methodology. This method says that you should find something in the first week and change it, even if it means to “paint a wall.” I have never been a big fan of changing just for the sake of change. You need to find the balance and the right timing.

6. Stay away from social media, unless it is necessary!

Let’s face it, social media has unfortunately become a place where people release a lot of passive aggressive energy cleverly disguised in thought-provoking prose! It is probably a good idea to stay away from such a volatile platform. Even if you mean well, your attitude and demeanor can inappropriately color your responses.

There are some good ideas found in this article called, “Social Media and Pastoral Moves.” I do not completely agree with all of the ideas, but there are some good thought-provoking concepts!

7. Guarantee that the person following you has what they need to succeed!

Ensuring that the person who follows you succeeds is one of the best ways to leave a lasting legacy! Just remember all of the things that you wish you would have know, and make sure that the person who follows you knows it. If it is important, make sure they know about it! Transition is hard enough without having to guess where the cord to the coffee pot is, or what the upcoming vacation schedule is, or who orders the supplies, or …

8. Make sure the friendships you have now only extend into the personal, not the professional.

When you transfer from a place, your relationships with the people that are staying need to be personal only, not professional. If you stay in contact with someone, you should only be discussing your personal lives, not what is happening at the office. This is hard when you have worked with someone for many years and part of your relationship is the work you do together! If the relationship is worth keeping, it is worth working hard for! So, it worth the extra effort to keep your nose out of what is happening after you leave! Nobody wins in this scenario! Trust me! We have been on both ends of this one.

9. Do not overanalyze a transition or move!

For some reason, you are moving or transferring!

Embrace it! Accept it! Trust it!

When you constantly analyze the “why’s” and “wherefore’s” and the “who’s” involved, you will not find any peace. You are there for a reason. I believe that it is OK to ask what that reason is. Whether you get an answer that satisfies your curiosity or not, you are still going there for a reason. And, more importantly, God is going to use you there for His reason!

10. Give yourself time and space to adjust to your new surroundings!

While this does relate to #3, it is important to remember to give yourself time to adjust! You will have a new place to learn, a new place to settle your family into, and a new set of circumstances to work through! You cannot expect yourself to get it all down in a week. How long did it take you to settle into the last place? It is reasonable to assume that it will take the same amount of time (more or less) to settle into the new place.

These are just a couple of ideas! What else would you add to the list?

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Saying Goodbye

Courtesy of Ministry Toolkit (www.tsamtk.org)

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)

My family has recently gone through a process that is familiar is some church traditions and completely alien in others. My wife and I were transferred from one appointment in a city to a new assignment in a completely different city. Fortunately, during this most recent transfer, we did stay in the same state, but it is not unheard of for officer (ministers in The Salvation Army) to be moved to another state during a transfer. While some traditions involve a similar move process, other traditions only have change in leadership through people requesting to move, leaders being removed from service, or retirement for faithful leaders. As a minister and leader in The Salvation Army, this is what we “signed up” for when we were commissioned. We know that any assignment begins a countdown of unknown length when we arrive. Our last appointment or assignment lasted 5 years with a 4 year appointment before this move. But, there are other leaders who experience lengths of stay as short as 6 months to a year depending on the individual situation. Moves are important to the life of The Salvation Army and our local corps (churches). The Army truly believes in the gifting of the Spirit in its’ officers and leaders. Every officer has been gifted in various areas of management, leadership, pastoral skills, teaching, program development, community relations, and the list goes on! Assigning officers to the right location must  be done very carefully through much prayer. Fortunately, I have not been asked to make those decisions, because honestly, I would be lost!

While these transitions can be difficult for the leaders and their families, they are equally as challenging for the local congregations. The local congregations say farewell to officers who have been with them for a certain period of time and the next Sunday, they say welcome to complete strangers. To the credit of most Salvation Army congregations and other congregations like them, they are very warm and friendly. They are very patient and understanding. God has graced our tradition through this process. But, I always wonder when I am going through a situation, “What would the Bible say about this?”

The apostle Paul said goodbye to congregations all over Asia many times. During his travels, he would start a new congregation and then leave to start the work in another place. Paul’s closing words to the Church in Colosse all centered around one idea, TOGETHERNESS. From reconciliation to encouragement to oneness of mind, Paul challenges the church to bind together in love, friendship, and discipleship. We have been blessed during this last transition to welcomed with open arms by our new congregation, community, and employee team. We have been encouraged by the way they have taken us into their collective embrace and made us family.

Saying goodbye is never easy! But, God’s grace is a source of encouragement and support!

Soli Deo Gloria!

On a personal note: Storm and I deeply miss and love our friends and congregation in Albany. They allowed us to grow and learn for the last 5 years. They waited patiently as we made mistake after mistake while we grew into the leaders that we needed to be (of course, we are still learning). While we love those we have moved away from, we have also fallen for our new place of ministry. We are excited by the opportunities for service that Rome has to offer!