While the culture of a great organization fosters longevity in its leaders, people are inevitably called to move on. In addition to a typical “thank you for serving” occasion, there is a deeply meaningful way to honor both outgoing and incoming leaders. Let’s take a look.

A critical transition in sports is the baton pass between relay runners. Seasoned racers are close to both have their hand on the baton, but not too close to trip each other up. A smooth pass yields unimpeded forward motion. A bumbled one causes unfortunate time loss.

The same is true in leadership transitions. Much time is devoted to training and orientation for a successful transfer. But on a more personal level, these leaders are navigating through their own thoughts about the change.

Inner Dialogue of an Outgoing Leader

  • Did I do a great job?
  • Do people appreciate the way I led and the service I gave?
  • How will I be remembered?
  • How will my next assignment from the Lord play out?

Inner Dialogue of an Incoming Leader

  • Can I handle this new responsibility?
  • Will I do as well as my predecessor?
  • Will people like me; will I like them?
  • Will I feel honored and appreciated as I work here?

In addition to being sensitive to these personal challenges, let’s consider the emphasis God places on leadership. Think of key leadership changes in the Bible – Moses to Joshua, Saul to David, Elijah to Elisha. God not only chose these leaders, He had very specific words of exhortation for each one.

Let’s take it a step farther. Since God is the ultimate leader and carries all authority, when He raises up a leader He temporarily grants the needed authority to that person. In other words, Christian leadership positions aren’t owned by individuals; they’re temporarily bestowed on them by God.

“Christian leadership positions aren’t owned by individuals; they’re temporarily bestowed on them by God.”

- Lisa Hosler

With this in mind, we developed a way to honor the Lord and leaders during transitions within our ministry. We call it a “mantle passing,” based on the biblical story of Elisha receiving Elijah’s mantle, or cloak, when he succeeded him in ministry (1 Kings 19:19-21; 2 Kings 2:1-14). A mantle symbolized God-given authority in Old Testament culture. We use a prayer shawl to represent this during our mantle passings. Any lightweight piece of fabric will do.

7 Steps to Honor Leaders in Transition

1. Designate a special time to gather with the two key leaders and related associates for a mantle passing and time of prayer. This would follow any overlap between the two leaders and is part of the official transfer of authority.

2. Read a passage of Scripture appropriate for the leadership role, or read the accounts about Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings 19:19-21; 2 Kings 2:1-14).

3. Place the mantle on the shoulders of the outgoing leader, and take turns praying for them and sharing additional verses as God leads.

4. Give the individual the opportunity to pray as well. Their heart is no doubt filled with memories and gratitude toward the Lord.

5. Next, invite that person to release their God-given authority in prayer, and then place the mantle on the shoulders of their successor. They should also pray a significant blessing on the new leader.

6. Invite others in the room to pray for the new leader and read Scripture as they’re led.

7. Provide opportunity for the new leader to express their heart to the Lord.

Leadership transitions are no small deal – not to God, and not to the individuals going through them. When you initiate a special time of prayer to account for this, you’re honoring God’s authority and acknowledging its significance for the leaders involved. They will feel honored by you and blessed by God as He speaks to their hearts during this time.

In the Comment Section below, describe a time you personally experienced or witnessed a leadership transition handled in an honoring way.

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