As I sat in the ICU room, overwhelmed by all the beeping machines and wires that were connected to my son, it was clearer than ever before that life is a gift and we never know when we might breathe our last breath. During the time I spent next to my son’s hospital bed, I received a WhatsApp message from a leader, alongside whom I have been working. She was sharing an article entitled “The Heart of Successful Succession.” As I sat reading this article, I was faced with two parallel realities. On the one hand, I was faced with the realization that my son’s life was a miracle and something we almost lost. On the other hand, I was faced with the continued realization that the ministries in which I serve need to be able to function without my presence. The more I read this article, the more I felt that the Lord was clarifying, with urgency, the need to have people trained and ready to take over for me, whether it’s because I have tendered my resignation, or because I have taken my last breath on this side of eternity.
With the realities that Covid-19 has brought to our individual contexts, I am sure that we can all relate to the many uncertainties that life brings. However, there are several things that are certain no matter what: God is faithful and good, and our time in our current role is limited (whether that means we need to turn it over, resign, or God calls us Heavenward). The certainty of role transition should remind us that even though we work within our specific contexts, we are a part of a mission that is larger than our personal contexts and one that extends throughout history, the present, and the future. We each have an invitation to look beyond our own vision, mission, PVCs, and experience, to grasp hold of the greater vision given to us by Jesus in Matthew 28:16-20.
With a focus on the mission of Jesus, we are invited to wrestle with questions like: “How would our leadership be different if we lived every day in light of the fact that we will eventually pass it on? How would it change if we became more aware of our mortality?” (Greer, 2021) Peter Greer suggests that every leader take time to write their own eulogy and focus on the difference between a eulogy and a resume. In the hustle and bustle of life, it is possible that we spend our time and focus on building resumes: accomplishments, titles, roles, etc. In this, we forget the things that matter most; those things with eternal value, which ultimately are the things we would desire to be said in our eulogies. Remembering our mortality invites us to live intentionally with purpose and clarity.
In a similar exercise, Greer suggests we should also write our resignation letter. If the Lord continues giving us breath, there is a very good chance that we will walk out of our current positions at some time (whether through retirement, new callings, etc.). Recognizing that our days in our current roles are numbered, also causes reflection. We ought to be thinking about what goals should be created, what mentoring needs to be accomplished, and how to “pass the baton” of our ministry over in healthy, God-honoring ways. Remembering that we will one day transition out of this role invites us to intentionally create vision and a plan for the ministries the Lord has entrusted to us. We are speaking of a vision and a plan that not only has eternal value but is one which will most likely outlast any one season of leadership.
“We are trusted with leadership for a limited time, but we are all interim leaders.” (Greer, 2021) As we spend time evaluating 2021 and preparing goals for 2022, the real assessment will be how well the “baton” is passed to the national leadership to carry on the mission…the mission of Jesus.
What do you hope will be included in your eulogy?
Greer, P. (2021, October 19). The Heart of Successful Succession. Association of Christian Schools International. Retrieved December 14, 2021, from https://blog.acsi.org/successful-succession