CMR Reading Room


This page has been established as a resource center for ministers who are working with their current churches or who may be seeking God's will to move to a new church field. Information is grouped by subject.

Current Church Field

How to Say "Good Bye" To Your Church: Seven Steps to Conclude Your Ministry

The Manner in Which You Leave Your Church Says a Lot About Who You Are.

Saying goodbye with grace brings the pastor to consider his relationships to God and others. Leaving a congregation is a grief process no matter the circumstances; therefore, use this time of departure as a time to grow.

  1. Invest your remaining time wisely. Pastor, be intentional in using the time between announcing the resignation and the pastor's actual departure to bring closure to this ministry. Closure will be important for various individuals, shut ins, persons the pastor is counseling, groups in the congregation and other special relationships in the community. As pastor, decide who will need a visit, a letter, or a phone call, to enable the person to emotionally and spiritually enter into a new relationship.
  2. Wrap up the pastor's responsibilities. This is the time to make good use of the deacons, giving them an orientation to the pastoral ministry so they can pick up and continue that ministry. Work in the interim time to turn over files, history, and assignments to appropriate persons in leadership roles. By the time the pastor is ready to leave, the pastor should no longer have any functions to perform. The pastor's desk will truly be empty.
  3. It is time for reconciliation. Visit if possible, those people with whom the pastor has experienced difficulties. To the best of the pastor's ability, restore these relationships. The pastor's goal is to eliminate emotional baggage for the pastor, and congregation so each can enter into new relationships without fear.
  4. Be graceful. Depending on the nature of the departure, the congregation may or may not be providing a formal time to honor the pastor. Nevertheless, grace requires the pastor to say thank you to the congregation. The pastor will especially want to thank those members who have loved and supported him and his family while serving the church. The pastor will decide how best to show appreciation by letter, card, visit or telephone call.
  5. Be clear about the pastor's reasons for leaving. Many people in the congregation will not understand why the pastor is leaving at this time. Hearing the pastor affirm that God has called him to a new place of service will be helpful to the congregation. Pastor, tell the congregation that you and your family are grateful for the time God has allowed you to serve the congregation. Certainly there are times when the reason for leaving is obvious such as retirement, etc.
  6. What about unpleasant departures?Unfortunately, there may be a time when the departure is not pleasant; those times will require grace, skill and tact to honestly bring closure to the ministry. Pastor, ask the church leaders if you could invite the Director of Missions or Church Minister's Relationship (CMR) Director from the SBC State Office to meet with the church leaders. The CMR director will ask the church leaders to gracefully offer the pastor an appropriate departure process, including severance and insurance. The CMR director will work with leaders to identify issues that need to be resolved before calling a new pastor. The CMR director will encourage the church to call a transitional interim pastor. Pastor, do not make major decisions under times of stress. Pastor, do not use this time to attack persons or groups in the church. The grace the pastor demonstrates now will pay rich dividends later. The pastor's goal is to bring closure to his ministry and help the church prepare for their future. Pastor, be clear that you inform the members that you will not accept invitations for weddings and funerals unless you have first discussed it with the church's new pastor.
  7. The pulpit ministry at this time should focus on hope. The messages should encourage the congregation to unite, grow, heal, and begin the transition for a new pastor.

...Information provided courtesy of Sylvan Knobloch, Illinois Baptist State Association

Prospective Church Field

 Visual Observations

When you visit the field, like any other first-time visitor, you will begin to take a visual inventory of that unique setting. What to look for?

  1. How visible is the church property? Would it be easy for a stranger to find?
  2. Is it obvious which door is the correct one to enter? On Sunday morning? On a rainy day? On Wednesday night?
  3. What is available for off-street parking?
  4. What is the general condition of the real estate?
  5. What is the appearance of the nursery? Is it near an exit on the first floor?
  6. What is the appearance of the most frequently used women's restroom?
  7. What is the condition of the worship center?
  8. How attractive is the best large meeting room?
  9. How much land is available for expansion?
  10. Do the members of the staff enjoy a productive work environment?
  11. How easy would it be for a first-time visitor to find he worship center? A restroom? The nursery? A Sunday School class?
  12. How many off-street parking places are designated as reserved for (a) mothers of young children, (b) guests, handicapped?
  13. What is the percentage of the average worship attendance to the seating capacity of the worship center?
  14. What is the message the bulletin boards send to the first-time visitor?

...Information provided courtesy of Dr. Bill Northcott, Tennessee Baptist Convention

Working with Search Committees

Possible Questions for Meeting with Pastor Search Committee

  1. What is your average Sunday School attendance? What was it a year ago? Five years ago?
  2. What was the average worship attendance for each of the past five years?
  3. How long did your previous pastor serve the church? The one before him?
  4. How much land do you own?
  5. What issues or questions are facing this congregation? Can I get a paragraph each from the chairman of deacons and members of the church council on the most urgent issues facing the congregation? (ASAP)
  6. What do you, as a congregation, do best in ministry?
  7. In two or three sentences, describe the most important event that has happened in or to this congregation since 1975. When did it happen?
  8. How many members were added by baptism for each of the past five years?
  9. What were the total receipts of this congregation for each of the past five years?
  10. Names and dates of pastors and other staff who have served this congregation since 1975.
  11. Does this congregation have (a) any indebtedness, (b) an endowment, (c) significant cash surplus? If yes, how much?

...Information provided courtesy of Dr. Bill Northcott, Tennessee Baptist Convention

Orientation and Training for Music Search Teams

Getting Ready to Go--A Staff Position is Vacant

  • Fill the position temporarily with a volunteer leader.
  • Elect and Train the Music Search Team. (Note: Paid music staff who will work under the new Worship Leader's supervision should not serve on the team.)
  • Choose/organize a transition music leadership team to continue to lead ongoing music programs.
  • Call full-time Music Ministers and university departments in your area for referrals.
  • Utilize musical ministerial staff members, retired leaders in your church and area, or lay musicians from your congregation for immediate relief.
  • Determine the type of interim that is needed and define the responsibilities for the position.
  • Covenant with the interim regarding time, expectations, and salary.
  • Arrange for the interim to meet and coordinate with the transitional music leadership team.
  • Call an interim music person.

Elect and Train the Music Search Team

  • Use, an existing group, such as a Music Team, or form a new team representing all facets of the congregation.
  • Encourage the team to help keep the music program organized and progressing forward during the interim and begin the search process.
  • Work regularly with the pastor, interim worship leader, and search team on the progress of the search.
  • Work closely with leaders of other areas of the church and ministerial staff.

Set Your Destination

  • Develop a job description for the new Worship Leader position.
  • Discuss and develop a salary/benefits package that can be offered. Be flexible in this area.

Listening Session Agenda

  • Conduct Listening Sessions with choirs, other musical groups, and the congregation. List candidate qualities by priority. Possible questions might be:
  • Where have we been in our music program?
  • Where are we now? Are we pleased?
  • What does God's future plan look like for the church in the music ministry?
  • What is our cultural context--will we reach out beyond the walls of our church?
  • What are the top-priority characteristics for a new worship leader?
  • Pray together for God's guidance!

 Formulate Travel Plans

  • Pray! Pray! Pray as the search team consider specifics.
  • Gather resumes.
  • Ask the congregation for recommendations.
  • Contact prominent worship leaders in your area for recommendations.
  • Contact seminaries, universities, and others for resumes and recommendations.
  • Organize resumes by qualifications.
  • Send a note to all who sent a resume notifying them it has been received and that the search team is praying and will be in contact soon. If they are not considered, let them know also.
  • Create three categories of resumes: (1) positive, (2) possible, and (3) probably not.
  • Decide on the top three candidates.
  • Contact each candidate by letter to let them know they are being formally considered. Inform those not being considered as well.
  • Check references of each candidate
  • Ask candidates for video or audio recordings from their worship services or special presentations, if available.

Meeting with the Candidate

  • Consider one candidate at a time! (This step is very important.)
  • Conduct an initial interview. (Conference call--with the entire team works well.)
  • Present job description to the candidate.
  • Pray! Pray! Pray!
  • Visit the candidate on his church field.
  • Conduct a second interview.
  • Clarify any questions or discrepancies.
  • Determine if the search team wants to continue with this candidate or move to the next candidate.
  • Allow the candidate to meet the ministerial staff.
  • Invite the candidate to visit and observe worship anonymously.
  • If the search team decides to move to another candidate, contact the first candidate of this decision. Usually the search team chairperson needs to call the candidate.
  • If the search team feels led, continue.

Presenting Documentation to the Candidate

  • Determine the financial package for the candidate, including salary and benefits and present it to the candidate.
  • Discuss the package with the candidate and allow for prayerful negotiation.
  • Present other important documentation from the church to the candidate such as the Constitution and By-Laws.
  • If agreeable, spend time in prayer, then take a vote of the Search Team on whether to call the candidate. If the vote is positive, proceed to plan for a "Call Weekend."

The "Call Weekend"

  • Create events that give maximum exposure of the candidate to as many people as possible.
  • Plan a Friday even meeting with staff and church administrative leadership.
  • Plan a Saturday morning Q & A with music leadership.
  • Plan a Saturday afternoon rehearsal with choir, praise team, orchestra, Bell choir (i.e. groups which the person will lead).
  • Plan a Saturday evening meal introducing the candidate allowing Q & A from the church, music ministry people, and others.
  • Sunday morning the candidate leads worship.
  • Sunday morning or evening a vote is taken by secret ballot. (Most churches take the vote on the following Sunday of the visit.)
  • Notify the candidate.
  • When the candidate responds, announce the decision to the church.
  • In light of technological advancement and social networking, please coordinate the announcement of the candidate to ensure the individual has time to resign his or her current ministry position without a problem emerging.

After the Candidate Accepts

  • Say goodbye to the interim and express appreciation for his/her leadership.
  • Prepare the church for the arrival of the new leader.
  • Communicate needs of the new ministry family's arrival
  • Prepare for the worship pastor's arrival.
  • Plan a welcome party.
  • Shower love on your new minister from the beginning.

 Assisting the Worship Leader During Transition

  • Alert local papers and media of the arrival of the new worship leader.
  • Create and present a welcome banner in the church giving the name of the worship leader and his family members.
  • Ask the search team members to clear their calendar so they can be present for the worship leader's first weekend.
  • Provide meals for the worship leader and his family for the first few nights on the church field.
  • Promote a stress free environment for the staff member asking current staff and administration to bear the load allowing for a smooth transition period.
  • Model servant leadership during the transition period.
  • Keep checking with the new staff member over the next six weeks to make sure their transition needs are met.
  • Praise God for His guidance through this transition period.
  • Lead the church to: (1) pray, (2) cooperate, (3) care, (4) follow, and (5) love the new staff member.

Revised from the original document in Creator Magazine adapted for South Carolina Baptist Churches by Mark Powers, Director of Worship and Music, at the South Carolina Baptist Convention, from "Transmap" by Monty Hall.


Due to technological advancements and social networking (Facebook, My Space, and etc.), please coordinate announcing a new staff member to ensure the individual has time to resign his or her current ministry position without any problems emerging.

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