By Doug Talley
Transitions are inevitable in life. The pandemic has thrust all of us into multiple simultaneous transitions. It started in early 2020 when COVID-19 first became a world-wide issue. The fallout of it continues today as we deal with the after-effects of the pandemic in pretty much every aspect of our lives. We’d like to think the adjustments are in the past and that life will now get back to normal. Friends, the old normal will not return. It is as ancient as the 20th Century. The pandemic has sped up the timetable of change to the extent that 2019 may as well be 25 years ago. And to make things even more complicated, we are likely to continue dealing with transition repercussions from the pandemic for several more years.
Let me remind you again that change and transition are two different things. In Managing Transitions William Bridges says that “change is situational.” It is an event that is external to us. Transition is “psychological…it is a … process that people go through as they internalize and come to terms with the details of the new situation that change brings about.” Change happens outside of us, while transition happens inside of us. The pandemic has certainly brought about a number of changes, and each of those changes force us to psychologically and emotionally adjust.
One change that was announced at the beginning of September is that I will be retiring from Indiana Ministries by June 30, 2023. This has nothing to do with COVID-19 and the pandemic. Nor was I urged towards retirement by the Indiana Ministries Board of Directors or any other person or persons. Cindy and I began a period of personal transition in 2021 when we sought to identify the date when I would step down as Indiana state pastor. Years ago we had targeted 67-68 as the age when I wanted to transition from full-time ministry to a more relaxed schedule. In 2021 we began to have serious conversations about the timing because we wanted to give the IM board time to develop and execute an intentional and well-timed succession in state pastors.
An intentional succession process is so important to ensure the health and effectiveness of any ministry, whether it is a local church, or a state and national ministry. So often resignations occur suddenly as the leader exits one role for another role with a few days or weeks’ notice. Or in the case of retirement, pastors can be reluctant to announce their exit in time for a sound succession plan to be implemented for fear of becoming a lame duck. Those sudden exit strategies leave a ministry in a lurch that is often very harmful to the present and the future.
Another harmful succession reality is when the leader stays in his or her role too long. My friend and the former state pastor of Ohio, Randy Spence, called this “outstaying one’s shelf life.” I fear we’ve all seen someone cling to their position because:
- the leader didn’t make adequate financial preparations for retirement, so he/she stays for a paycheck.
- the leader depended on the role for his or her identity, and he/she couldn’t bear to surrender the position even for the good of the organization; or
- the leader had a one-dimensional life of ministry, and he/she couldn’t psychologically or emotionally pull the trigger on retirement.
Cindy and I do not want our exit to be harmful in any way to Indiana Ministries. Many of you have been so kind to express your sadness in our departure, and we appreciate that. We want to leave when there is some sadness, rather than our departure announcement resulting in boisterous celebration and applause! Y’all have been so good to encourage us and express your appreciation for us – not just since the announcement was made but during our last 14 plus years in this role. You have made serving as state pastor an absolute joy! Thank you!
I have every confidence in the IM Board of Directors to lead this succession process. Over the last few years as persons have completed their terms on the board, new persons were nominated with the full knowledge that I would be leaving IM about this time. The Board is comprised of people who . . .
- clearly understand the mission and complexity of Indiana Ministries;
- value and love Indiana Ministries and the role that it plays;
- want to see Indiana Ministries thrive for decades to come;
- deeply value the present staff and want to provide for continuity;
- will bring their best as a Board member and as a part of the succession team.
I also have every confidence in the IM staff to continue to serve with deep commitment and love for the churches and pastors in Indiana and beyond. They are a first-rate team, and it has been a joy and privilege to serve with them. Indiana Ministries is blessed at many levels.
My retirement will bring about change and transition for Indiana Ministries and all whom it includes, as well as for Cindy and me. I am thankful that last fall the Board insisted that I take a couple of months of sabbatical to process what retiring from IM means for my life and ministry. At the Board’s request, this has been broken up into three individual months spread out over an 18-month period. I’ve taken two of those months in this calendar year, and they have been invaluable and priceless. Cindy and I’ve been able to talk to multiple colleagues and friends about their retirement, their emotional and relational adjustment, and what their lives look like after retiring. I’ve been able to read several related books and discuss them with Cindy. We’ve also been able to meet with our dear friend, mentor, coach and therapist Al Ells. As you would expect, our time with Al was incredibly helpful and insightful. As a result of the Board’s wisdom, we have made big strides in working through a long list of questions and concerns and processing our own emotions as we move towards mid-2023. We are also aware that for most of you associated with Indiana Ministries, your transition is just beginning.
Please pray for . . .
- the Board and the selection process;
- the staff and the many changes and transitions that have been set in motion;
- Slingshot as they will initially sort through all the applications and resumes to narrow the number of applicants to a short list that will be presented to the Board who are serving as the search team;
- the person who will be chosen to succeed me and all the changes and transitions that they will experience next year;
- Cindy and me to finish strong and be a blessing to everyone associated with IM during this succession process.
I’m looking forward to the annual ordination service on October 2 at 5:00 pm (Madison Park Church) where we will ordain nine persons into the Christian ministry. One of my favorite people in the world will be the ordination speaker, Rev. Brett Talley. Join us for this time of worship and celebration.
I am also looking forward to the Annual Meeting on October 3 (Madison Park Church). This will be my last meeting as the Indiana Ministries State Pastor, and I’ll be sharing some thoughts with you after Josh and Nonni Wagner lead us in a time of worship. We’ve got two great speakers, Rev. Eric Livingston and Rev. Arnetta Bailey, that you will not want to miss! The business meeting will also be a time of celebration as we not only adopt a new budget, but also celebrate what God has been doing. After the business meeting, there are two breakouts about very relevant topics that are led by two special and incredible men who have grown up in the Church of God: Rev. Dr. Nathan Willowby and Rev. Brett Talley. My only angst in selecting these two persons and their topics is that I want to go to BOTH of their sessions! Be sure to register so that we know you are coming and so that you can select what you want for lunch.