Suggestions for Ministerial Transitions in Partnerships

Maintain Good Connections

The first and foremost goal is to maintain good connections with your partners. Inform them as soon as you know your minister is leaving. Assure them the partnership will continue and make sure they know who the primary contact will be during the transition. Give them a timeline for when a new minister will be settled. If you will have an interim minister, tell them who it is. Work with them to create links between the interim minister and their minister. (prayer exchange, greetings to the congregation at holidays etc.)


Prepare for the Transition

Where a transition is announced and there is sufficient time to plan, the consider any or all of the following activities:

  • Plan for partners to visit the congregation in transition as part of the transition activities - Example: When a minister is retiring, invite the partner minister to be part of the retirement festivities.
  • Review the linkages between the congregations. (For example: women’s groups, RE, music, social action/justice, . . .) Promote renewing and strengthening those linkages. Plan cooperative activities for these linkages for the transition period.
  • Have the departing minister/lay leader promote/develop & strengthen existing linkages and explore opportunities for creating new ones.
  • Plan a pilgrimage from the partner congregation to the congregation in transition during the transition period. Plan the activities of the pilgrimage to develop new and strengthen existing linkages.
  • If you do not already have a tradition of an annual Partnership Sunday, consider starting one.
  • If you do not already have a tri-fold brochure about your partnership, create one. This can be available in the foyer of the church and makes the partnership visiable to all.
  • Develop a schedule of partnership activities for the transition period - pilgrimages, gift sharings, conference calls, joint projects, . . .
  • If your congregation uses some variant of “policy governance”, review existing policies relating to international travel and engagement with other U*U organizations.
  • If there are none, consider starting a process for developing and adopting such policies.

Create a Presence in the Congregational Packet

Every church in search for a new minister creates an information packet. Here is how one partner church committee did that:
The Partner Church Committee updated the Partner Church section of our UUSM webpage and created a print version. The Search Committee wrote to Rev. Rebecca Sienes, president of the UU Church of the Philippines (UUCP), to request that our partner congregation in Ulay write a Letter of Welcome to our new minister. The Ulay congregation wrote the letter, signed by their minister, and nearly every member of the congregation, and the students in the Education Partner program. UUCP staff translated the letter into English and sent us the original and the translation.We included all of these documents in our Congregational packet. See packet materials

Work With the Interim Team and Minister

If a transition is sudden, consider any or all of the activities in the “Preparing for Transition” section. In addition, consider the following:

  • Work with the interim team to make sure partnership information is up-to-date and included in the ministerial search packet and on your congregation’s web site.
  • Work with the interim team to make sure partnership is part of the “curriculum” for the incoming interim minister’s familiarization with the congregation.
  • Meet with the interim minister and discuss the importance of the partnership in your congregation.
  • Make sure that the Partnership Sunday is on the church calendar for the new minister’s first year.
  • Make the partnership is visible during Candidate Week - if possible plan a partnership dinner/pot luck during the week. Or, if there is another dinner/pot luck, volunteer to decorate the tables with a partnership flair.

Ministerial Changes Overseas

When the ministerial change is in the overseas church, this transition offers many of the same challenges and opportunities as when the change occurs here in the United States or Canada. If the primary contact in the overseas partner church has been the minister, it may further complicate matters.

The first and foremost goal is the same -- to maintain good communications with your partners. Reach out to your partners as soon as you know their minister is leaving. Assure them the partnership will continue and make sure they know they have the full support of your congregation. Consider communicating with your partners by multiple means, for example:

  • A formal letter to their church board and congregation from your congregation signed by your minister/s, board of trustees, and your partner church ministry/committee
  • Letters or emails from your partner church ministry/committee to their partner church committee, if they have one.
  • Informal friend-to-friend communications by letter, email, phone, or Skype.

Be certain to inform your congregation of the change and continue to keep people informed as the process of transition, which may be lengthy, unfolds. Encourage all linked groups and individuals within your congregation to communicate. Provide opportunities at holidays and other church events for members of your congregation to send photos, sign cards, and otherwise maintain and increase contact with partners.

When a New Overseas Minister is Selected

As soon as you learn about the new minister, ask for contact information and welcome her/him. Send greetings, formal and informal, from your minister/s and church members to the new minister. Enlist the support of all those who have been and are involved with partner activities in the partner church to engage with the new minister and share the history of the partnership. If possible, arrange a visit to the partner church to meet the new minister and renew connections with members of the congregations. See this as a real opportunity to strengthen and deepen the partnership.