Transitional / Intentional ministry

Life is full of transition and requires more from us. ‘Intentional Ministry’ (IM) is a type of ‘Transitional Ministry’ which can be one of the most fruitful and challenging ministries a person can have. It is strongly associated with ‘change management’.

‘Intentional ministry’ sometimes deals with conflict issues before a permanent leader comes in to take over a troubled organisation. Another reason for an Intentional Ministry is to give people time to adjust from the previous leader they may have loved who stayed a long time, before a new permanent leader arrives.

The previous leader must of course move on emotionally and physically, which is hard as they have invested so much time and energy into the organisation. They must not however continue to try and shape ministry in the way they want it to go. If it is a church they are terminating their ministry with, it is recommended that they worship elsewhere for at least 6 to 12 months before returning if they so desire, but they need to talk the matter over with the new leader first.

Over the years I have had a strong interest and involvement in IM and the attachment is a very brief summary of the subject. There is constantly a need for people to take up this role.

 Bible Perspective
Change can be hard or exciting or both.

Pharisees found change hard and especially with the unwelcome arrival of Jesus Christ the long awaited Messiah and His new way of thinking.

‘So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?” He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written “‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” Mark 7:5-8

But often change can be an exciting thing and Intentional Ministry will bring that for many. “See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.” Isaiah 42:9

Abbreviations: Intentional Leader (IL) and Transitional Ministry (TM)

  1. People within an organisation often feel vulnerable, angry or directionless when an established leader leaves, especially if that person leaves unhappily.
  2. There is a difference between an Intentional leader and an interim leader. The interim leader looks after a group of people more than introducing change. An Intentional Leader on the other hand deals significantly with change and is often used to bring healing to bruised people.
  3. An Intentional Leader’s ministry normally lasts from one to two years.
  4. IL are often given extra authority from a denomination or a board in an organisation to make changes as difficult decisions will need to be made. However, they should be consultative in their style.
  5. Brain scans recently confirmed that when people are hearing new information that is different than their belief, they normally respond first with emotional feelings, rather than cognitively. So then, it takes time before people intellectually understand and adjust to what is happening. This means it is normal for most humans to resist change. Therefore, if you are leading a group of people give them time to adjust to new suggestions and directions and help them to become part of the ongoing decision-making process. This will come about by giving them good information about the future which they can discuss in small groups.
  6. ‘Self-differentiation’ is a term used encouraging leaders not to get too emotionally involved in the organisation they are leading through change. If that happens, they could lose perspective and even become in danger of burnout. IL should have an objective understanding of the change process.
  7. ‘Appreciative Inquiry’ among the people Is a tool used in IM. ‘This is an approach to organisational change which focuses on strengths rather than on weaknesses. This is quite different to many approaches to evaluation, which focus on deficits and problems.’ *
  8. To meet monthly with a skilled and experienced supervisor is a must for reflection, gaining wisdom and for keeping challenges in perspective. Often one experiences isolation if the Intentional Ministry has required relocation and a supervisor also helps to meet that need of support.
  9. If an organisation requests an IM leader then once that ministry is completed it is strongly recommended, they do not stay long term, as ‘power dynamics’ are likely to change and cause confusion among the people. Many an IL have destroyed their ministry because they have stayed longer than they should have.
  10. As this is a specialised ministry, I strongly suggest that the IM leader undergoes a course of study. There are a number of good seminars and books around which will help to prepare for the task.
  11. Throughout this period, you may get many thanks from the people you lead, but you are just as likely to suffer hardship from ungodly attitudes of people who disagree with what you are doing. Most of us doing IM have experienced this.
  12. If you get the chance do a preaching series on people going through transition, there are lots of examples given in Scripture to draw upon. The book of Nehemiah is one for example.
  13. During IM, team leadership often changes with new leadership rising up and denominational or network ties strengthened. That is a good thing.

‘Dying for change’ by Leith Anderson
‘Leading Change’ by John Kotter
‘Transitional ministry – a time of opportunity’ by M D Smith (Editor) *


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