At a Global Leadership Summit, in recent years, Bill Hybels discussed the sensitive issue of succession planning. In typical Hybels style, he addressed it boldly, challenging leaders to "Turn over heaven and earth to make sure our churches are well led after we leave."

KEY #1: A great overall succession plan will have an extended planning phase

  • Ask and answer key questions
  • Who will choose the next leader?
  • What is the time frame?
  • How will the church honor the departing leader?
  • Hybels shared his time frame at age 61: 5-10 years
  • Hybels indicated that their planning phase was at least one year

KEY #2: The right person must engage the pastor in the extended planning phase

  • The person must have incredibly high trust with the leader
  • The person must to be a person of high emotional intelligence
  • The person must be patient as the planning questions cannot be rushed

KEY #3: The plan must outline how internal and external candidates will be considered

  • At Willow Creek, they will thoroughly consider internal candidates first
  • Hybels indicated that this creates excitement internally for potential candidates

KEY #4: You can't overestimate how deep emotions run for a pastor-leader

  • This is heightened for founding pastors
  • NOTE: You could sense Hybels discomfort in even addressing the subject
  • Hybels predicts a generational flux of leaders will be tested in the next 10 years

KEY #5: Leaders must be challenged to leave a legacy

  • Hybels was asked, "Are you going to die someday?"
  • He was then asked, "Do you plan to lead Willow until the day you die?"
  • Every leader knows that the greatest legacy is how the organization is led after them
  • Hybels shared that he has more enthusiasm because he can "see the finish line"

If you are interested in learning more about succession planning, consider checking out Auxano's Succession Planning Toolbox. We will be conducting a 2-day "Bootcamp" in Dallas this August, to walk you and your team through the toolbox. Get more information on Auxano's Bootcamps.

About Will

Would you like more meaningful progress in your church? 

I want you and your ministry to experience the benefits of stunning, God-given clarity. As a pastor turned vision coach, I’ve worked with an unprecedented variety of churches from growing mega-churches and missional communities, to mainline revitalization and church plants. I have the privilege of being the founder of Auxano, a church consulting group and Younique, a personal vision and life planning training company for the church. Most people know me from two of several books that I have authored: Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision and Create Movement and God Dreams: 12 Templates for Finding and Focusing Your Church's Future.

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Will Mancini