7 Principles of Transitioning and Adapting to a New Ministry or Ministry Change

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7 Principles of Transitioning and Adapting to a New Ministry or Ministry Change

Written By Cathie Smith

7 Principles of Transitioning and Adapting to a New Ministry or Ministry Change

A successful ministry is dependent upon many things. Some are things we can control, and some are things we have little to no control over. Some of the greatest lessons I learned about adapting to and growing in a new ministry were developed living overseas as an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary. Although I was in Western Europe with many similarities to what I had experienced in America, the differences were overwhelming, even paralyzing, at times. We were trained and well prepared on paper by the IMB, but implementing and living out strategies to adapt to and carry out a ministry overseas would require much more adjustment and preparation.

The lessons I learned on the mission field also applied to my transition into a role at the California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC) as well as other ministry positions I have held, both volunteer and paid, since living overseas. While the way we adapt and develop a new ministry or role plays out in our individual lives and ministries differently, there are some similarities in how we can better transition and adapt. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but hopefully, one that brings encouragement and a new desire to grow roots where we are planted.

LEAN into the Father.

  • Remember your first calling and true identity – before any other position or title, we are sons and daughters of the Most High King! This will help anchor us through the storms of doubt and transition.
  • Keep your priorities in check. We can easily place our service to the Lord above our relationship with Him. When our hearts and minds are not in the right place, it is difficult for our service, no matter how good it is, to align properly with His.
  • Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit over the noise of people’s opinions. This is not easy – especially as some of the voices are so loud!!
  • Stand firm on His solid rock and in His truth. Be steadfast – even in the middle of the storm. (see 1 Corinthians 15:58, Hebrews 12:1-3)
  • Practice sabbath. This is not meant to be something legalist; rather, finding rhythms of rest to renew, recover, and refresh physically, mentally, and spiritually is life-giving.

Be a LEARNER.

  • Be a student of the culture. Learn the history of the church or ministry, visit local shops and businesses, and get to know the rhythms of those around you.
  • Listen to what is being said and what is not being said. What are the needs, hurts, joys, and struggles of those around you?
  • Learn the language and the culture. This doesn’t just apply to living in a foreign country – even a neighborhood in the same city can have a different culture and way of speaking than another one in a different part of the city.

LIVE missionally.

  • Live life with a purpose. Live to make disciples who make disciples, to shine light in darkness, to share good news, to help those who are unseen feel seen. Ultimately live to bring honor and glory to our Father. (See Matthew 28:18-20)

LAUGH at and with yourself and with others.

  • Sometimes, we may be tempted to take life too seriously. We will make mistakes in the learning process. Take time to find laughter and joy. “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

LOOK for opportunities to intentionally invest in others.

  • I love how ministry leader and pastor’s wife Jill Briscoe put it: “Go where you’re sent, stay where you’re put, unpack, and give what you’ve got until you’re done.” In other words, grow roots, put away the suitcases, hang the pictures, and settle in! Also, be intentional in follow-through. Say what you mean, do what you say, keep commitments, answer emails, texts, calls, etc. (See Hebrews 10:24-25)

Develop LEADERS.

  • Start early – don’t wait until retirement to begin this process. From the first day in the ministry, start prayerfully looking for leaders and ways to invest in them. (See 2 Timothy 2:2)

LEAVE the results to God.

  •  This is a LOT easier said than done. But while there are many workers and people investing in a ministry, the Lord is the one who brings forth growth and change. Keep your eyes on Him. (See 1 Corinthians 3:6-7)

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV

About the Author

Cathie Smith
Women's Ministry Director, CSBC

Cathie holds a bachelor’s degree in family development from Oklahoma Baptist University, and a master of divinity and doctor of educational ministry from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. For 10 years, Cathie and her husband served primarily in Spain with the International Mission Board, however, Cathie’s international missions service also includes Ecuador, Japan and Guatemala. She is the mother of 3 children, (2 grown and 1 still at home) and she serves as the Women's Ministry Director for CSBC.

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