How to Build Your Team thru Succession Management

I can remember waking in fear nearly every Sunday morning.

I served as a staff pastor in a small San Fernando Valley (California) church. My job was to oversee the operation of a cradle to grave Sunday School.

Each week I could anticipate that someone would fail to show up on Sunday morning. If I was fortunate, they might call me on Saturday evening. But mostly I’d discover the problem after arriving on the church campus.

The problem followed me when I left that job to plant the first Hope Chapel. It wasn’t until we’d moved to Hawaii that I came upon the solution to the ongoing drama.

A friend taught me how his company used succession management to build line workers into department heads and eventual vice presidents.

This was a wake-up call for me. I saw his idea as a solution to recruiting enough labor for us to operate our church as we should.

What is Succession Management?

As we approach the idea of “succession management” our focus is on the word, ‘succession.’

The goal is to ensure that every person on your team always has a successor ready to assume their job if they leave, or to fill in when they’re absent. Succession management makes it easier to recruit people, since you’re only asking new people to do entry-level service rather than recruiting them for more difficult tasks.

At the lower reaches of ministry, you recruit “helpers.” At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve always had a designated successor for my role as lead pastor. If I died or became disabled, this person would step right into my job. Sometimes that person was our youth pastor and would require the church elders support in order to succeed. The important thing is that we believed in them enough to trust that they could step into the position, successfully.

A Step Beyond

Succession management doesn’t just mean that we have a successor in place. It also means that the successor has a successor, and that person has a successor. It implies that every team member becomes a recruiter and disciplemaker.

When you analyze it, succession management is simply applied disciplemaking. The goal is to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples. A problem I’ve found with many leaders is that there is no practical outcome to their disciplemaking efforts other than the gathering of Bible knowledge and a growing level of spiritual maturity. For disciplemaking to pay off, for the Kingdom of God, it must result in some form of ministry. Ours succession-oriented disciplemaking does, how about yours? Sound off in the comments box…

Adapted from Team Building thru Succession Management, the second in a series of six books called How to Hire, How to Fire & How to Manage in Between.



4 thoughts on “How to Build Your Team thru Succession Management”

  1. Ralph,

    It is one thing to talk about such things. However, like a sheep that was under your care in Hawaii for almost ten years and being part of living out this truth of applied discipleship, alias succession management you applied to Hope Chapel, Kaneohe.

    I was blessed to live under your care as you applied this Godly wisdom to your training everyone who was involved in ministry at Hope Chapel. From the door greeter all the way up to the assistant pastor.

    Good to see you are still going strong and listening to our Heavenly Father and following His lead in your life…

  2. I feel this in ministry. I feel this at work. I was just talking to someone yesterday that is a good disciplemaker, but is struggling on how to develop their disciples into disciplemakers. I struggled with this same question when I ran a ministry with the thought “I’ll show them how, then later, when they’re ready, I’ll ask them to step in.” – Didn’t work. Failed. The second ministry, I didn’t wait one second. I gave away bite-sized tasks day-one and assumed a role of cheerleader, encourager, sounding board. The people had no time to experience how “good” I am and how lame they think they are (tongue and cheek, but real feelings). They just accepted, “I guess this is how this goes” and they grew in ministry. This shows you trust them as you’re trusting Jesus with them. No test to pass FIRST before starting a bit of ministry. Do you trust Jesus to really follow through with your disciple? Or, do you keep your ministry on “your” shoulders because you can do a ” better” job?

  3. Thank you Ralph for mentoring me, being my pastor and friend for over 30 years. I put what you have taught into practice and all I can say is, God blessed and caused the ministry to grow. God bless you and Ruby, and I continue to pray for both of your health.

    Much Aloha

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