When Your Long-Term Pastor Leaves Your Church

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More About This Title When Your Long-Term Pastor Leaves Your Church


The time of transition following the tenure of a long-term pastor is a unique season in the life of a congregation. However, the distinct elements and potential difficulties of these transitions can be overcome—these transitions can work! Churches can navigate this season of ministry with the confidence that God can facilitate a successful transition process. When Your Long-Term Pastor Leaves Your Church describes, through a survey of biblical narratives as well as through more current real-life examples, the different ways churches go through transitions after a long-term pastor—with good, bad, or mixed results. The book then discusses ways a congregation, its pastors, elders, and pastoral search committee can safeguard against a poor transition and promote one that is successful. It provides practical guidance for churches who not only want to prevent a problematic transition after a long-term pastor, but want to actually promote one that works.


Larry Gilpin has served as a PCA minister for thirty years with pastorates in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia-where he helped prepare his congregation for his departure as a long-term pastor. He has served his current presbytery as its moderator, as chairman of its candidates and credentials committee, and as a member of its shepherding committee, where he assists ministers and congregations dealing with difficult seasons of ministry. He has a heart for mentoring younger ministers, shepherding other pastors, and assisting churches as they deal with pastoral transitions. He is a graduate of Covenant Seminary (M.Div., 1986, D.Min., 2006), where his doctoral dissertation focused on the process of pastoral transitions following the tenure of a long-term pastor. Currently he is a pastoral assistant at the First Presbyterian Church of Augusta, Georgia. He and his wife, Corley, have been married since 1987 and have two adult daughters.


A Note about Terms
1 Pastoral Transitions: Times of Ecstasy or Agony?
2 Biblical Examples of Leadership Transition
3 When the Transition Goes Well
4 When Things Fall Apart
5 When Results Are Mixed
6 What Makes These Transitions Go Poorly?
7 What Can Help These Transitions Go Well?
8 Applying Biblical Principles to Transitions After a Long-Term Pastor
Appendix A: Sample Transition Plan
Appendix B: Checklists-Before and During Transitions
Appendix C: Ten Things Churches Need to Consider During Pastoral Transitions
About the Author


Larry Gilpin brings a wealth of pastoral experience with many examples to help churches understand issues that they will face during pastoral transitions. The time lines and checklists at the end of the book are particularly helpful for Search Committees seeking to understand and organize their responsibilities.
Bryan Chapell, Grace Presbyterian Church (PCA), Peoria, Illinois
President Emeritus, Covenant Theological Seminary

Pastoral transitions are difficult even in the healthiest of churches. Larry has drawn from personal experience and research. But he also carefully studied the experience of three very different congregations transitioning from long term pastorates. Regardless of the circumstances, every congregational search committee and Session seeking a new pastor would greatly benefit from a thoughtful review of his work.
Robert W. Burns, Assistant Pastor, Seven Hills Fellowship (PCA), Rome, Georgia; Adjunct Professor of Educational Ministries, Covenant Theological Seminary

Love for the Bride of Christ demands gospel-centered transitions by pastors and local church leaders. Written by a journeyman pastor who has navigated the dangerous waters of several pastoral transitions, When Your Long-Term Pastor Leaves Your Church is a must read for every search committee, ruling board, and pastor (because every pastor is a "departing pastor"). Not only can I recommend a book I have personally found helpful, I can commend Larry Gilpin as an author who is a dear friend whom I have watched practice what he preaches out of love for Jesus and by His grace.
George Robertson, Senior Pastor, First Presbyterian Church (PCA), Augusta, Georgia

I am delighted to recommend this well-researched work by Dr. Larry Gilpin on the church's practice of healthy pastoral transition after a relatively long pastorate. My observation is that the majority of Search Committees choose the wrong successor and therefore he becomes an "Unintentional Interim" lasting no longer than four to seven years. In the process, great damage is inflicted upon the church-as well as on the pastor and his family. Dr. Gilpin provides invaluable counsel regarding general principles and effective procedures useful for finding a successor who will lead the church into many years of God-honoring ministry.
Philip D. Douglass, Professor of Applied Theology, Covenant Theological Seminary

This book will be a great resource to help churches going through a transition in leadership, especially when a long-serving pastor departs. The author wisely begins with biblical examples of leadership transition-Moses, Jesus, Paul and David. He then offers realistic case studies of churches which have gone through leadership transitions with varying degrees of success. Finally, the practical principles for all those affected by transition (incoming pastor, outgoing pastor, search committee, congregation, lay leadership) are helpfully summarized at the end of the book. I consider that this will be a very helpful resource for our local church, which I helped to start over twenty-five years ago, as the people there deal with my imminent departure to a new ministry situation.
Jim Newheiser, Director of the Christian Counseling Program at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, North Carolina; Executive Director of IBCD