Sustained: Exploring Pastoral Leadership Transitions in Light of Old Testament Succession Narratives

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Pastoral succession is a necessary topic for non-denominational churches. According to the Barna research group, clergy are aging, candidate pools are shrinking and the North American Church as a whole is rapidly approaching a mass pastoral succession. One of the primary issues, however, is that there are not many models that are readily available for leaders to follow to transition well, meaning there is no plan in place before the actual transition occurs. Although transition may be difficult, it is in fact inevitable since one leader cannot stay in position forever. One of the more pressing issues facing our congregations is not the ability to address the what, but the failure to implement the how and when. The objective of this research is to convey the need for succession specifically in independent churches, encourage fellow pastors to think “with” the biblical narratives that highlight leadership transitions and consider what happens when these stories are read in light of contemporary questions about pastoral leadership and transitions. Finally, the goal is to help leaders and their congregations to see transition as an intentional, ongoing process instead of a one-time event and to provide the necessary tools to begin implementing the process of transition. The key ingredients of a healthy pastoral transition involve locating someone chosen by God and affirmed by the predecessor, who earns the trust of the congregation and leads with confidence.





McClendon, Lesley Francisco (2020). Sustained: Exploring Pastoral Leadership Transitions in Light of Old Testament Succession Narratives. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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