Pastoral Transitions: Matt Davis on Best Practices in Moving Members Off Your Team

Thanks for joining the unSeminary podcast. This week we are talking to Matt Davis, the President and Chief Pastoral Officer at Pastoral Transitions. This ministry exists to help churches love and support their outgoing pastors and their families. They provides transition services to help pastors continue their life ministry for building God’s kingdom.

Every pastor serving in ministry is temporary; at some point each of us will transition out of our roles. How can churches prepare for staff transitions that will honor and love people well and encourage unity rather than division? Matt casts vision for how to care for pastors and their families well during this painful time in their life.

  • Are they planted in the right place? // Before considering the transition of a staff member from your church, Matt says to look at the church as a garden. A lot of care has gone into planting someone in their role. However, sometimes that person needs to be transplanted to another space in the garden in order to thrive and grow the kingdom.
  • Wear both hats. // Ministry is more than an employee/employer relationship and often develops into friendship. Sometimes you may need to wear the boss hat and talk with a person about their performance. Don’t surprise someone by immediately letting them go. Have an ongoing conversation about changes that need to be made. If there’s no change after three to six months, explain that you need to discuss a change in their employment. But then also put on the friendship hat and let them know that you care and how hard this decision is.
  • Help with the transition. // Pastoral Transitions steps in on a pastor’s last day in a ministry role and helps a church’s leadership message the transition well. Matt writes the pastor a letter that welcomes them into the season of transition and lets them know that he and his group will be working with them to provide the practical and emotional support needed.
  • Career, coaching, and counseling. // Pastoral Transitions works with the pastors in the areas of career, coaching, and counseling. In the area of career, Pastoral Transitions first looks at what it is that the pastors are equipped to do and what transitional skills they have as a pastor. Pastoral Transitions also does assessments with pastors to help them find any blind spots they need to address. They encourage pastors that there is life after ministry.
  • Where is God leading? // The coaching aspect helps pastors focus on where God is for them in this season. In addition to life coaching, pastors work through leadership development with Townsend Leadership, and financial coaching with Thrivent.
  • Work through the emotions. // Pastoral Transitions has a network of therapists across the country, not only for pastors, but also for their spouses and kids. Over six months Pastoral Transitions works with outgoing pastors to help them transition and work through the pain they may have from their change in employment.
  • Beyond Severance. // Matt is offering the free download Beyond Severance: 3 Must-Have Resources for Ministry Transitions. This resource walks through best practices for offboarding and how to approach these transitions with empathy, grace, generosity, and a focus on unity.

Download the PDF Beyond Severance: 3 Must-Have Resources for Ministry Transitions and explore the other resources Pastoral Transitions offers, including their Life After Ministry podcast, at

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Thank You to This Episode’s Sponsor: CDF Capital

Since 1953 CDF Capital has helped church leaders and individuals bring light to the world through the thoughtful stewardship of their capital. The Church, including your church, requires more than just financial capital, it also needs spiritual and leadership capital. While separate in purpose, these three forms of capital are intertwined and inseparable for the cause of kingdom growth. Together, when we partner with the Lord to bring spiritual, leadership, and financial capital to a church, the results are transformational. At CDF Capital our ministry is simple: we lend money to churches.

CDF Capital, in partnership with Barna Group, conducted a research study to better understand what happens in churches after a new leader comes in. Barna Group interviewed 111 pastors online who have experienced a leadership transition within the last 12 years. Click here to get your free download of the study.

Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Hey friends, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you have decided to tune in. This is going to be a great episode. Uh, this is one of those questions that I get, uh, you know, I have a list of things that people over the years have said you should talk about this, that I have not done something on. And, uh, because and frankly, this one is because I don’t know what to do about it, because it’s, uh, it’s just it feels like a quandary. And so we had to get an expert on somebody who would actually help us with this, rather than just my opinions. Uh, so we’ve got Matt Davis with us. He’s from an organization called Pastoral Transitions, and they’re a ministry that exists to help churches love and support their outgoing pastors and their families. They provide transition services to help pastors continue their life in ministry, uh, for building God’s kingdom. So this really is going to be a good conversation. Matt is a teaching and executive pastor for more than two decades in Orange County. Super honored to have you here today. He’s the President and Chief Pastoral Officer at Pastoral Transition. Welcome, Matt. Glad you’re here today.

Matt Davis — Hey, thanks a lot, Rich. Good to be here.

Rich Birch — Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background and then and then kind of give us a sense of the scope of Pastoral Transitions. What do you guys do?

Matt Davis — Yeah. So after being in ministry at a larger church in Orange County for more than 20 years, having been everything from an intern to a children’s pastor to youth pastor, then my marriage had some trouble. They made me the marriage pastor because we survived through it.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Matt Davis — You know, then I was the teaching pastor and executive pastor. And, uh, in those positions, you know, that it’s a difficult spot because sometimes you have to let people go. And so I’ve made my own share of mistakes, but it wasn’t really until I found myself on the other end of a pastoral transition. And long story short, I earned my way out of ministry. And though I had been there for 22 years, I was friends with all the guys on the elder board and the executive team and all those folks, and we really wanted to do things well. The outcome of that was it was really hard. It was really difficult. And found myself asking these questions like, well, what do I do now? Um, if I’m not a pastor, what am I going to do? What does life look like after ministry? Is there life after ministry? And we went through this triage of trying to figure out, uh, those next steps. And so really the those next steps became what we created, Pastoral Transitions to be.

Rich Birch — Cool. Well, let’s let’s dive in. Why is this an area of so much pain? Like, why does what are the dynamics? Talk us through there. Why why is it that so many, you know, staff and pastors leave churches and it seems like there’s pain on both sides or all sides? It’s like with the person themselves, with their their family, with the church, um, maybe with, you know, volunteers. It kind of is everywhere. It’s like there’s there’s pain all around. Why is that? Why does that happen at churches?

Matt Davis — There’s a lot of stakeholders in the process. And I liken it to I think the church is really good at on-ramps. We bring people in really well. It feels holy and sacred. The elders are part of the process. It’s very prayerful. We’re very open about it. We we, we have, you know, the pastors for that, lots of paperwork and lots of interviews and lots of potluck lunches after service to get to know the new person. It’s almost like a castle and coronation day, right? And the kingdom is alive. And there’s banners that are furled out, and there’s the laying on of the hands, and it’s almost as if, you know, we lay on the hands and we now say, I dubbed thee pastor. And it’s this beautiful moment.

Matt Davis — But that exit, that off-ramp, uh, that what was once a thriving and beautiful kingdom that felt welcoming as the drawbridge comes back up and closes, you see this outgoing pastor and their spouse and their family, and they’re walking away from this castle, and it’s very dark. And what that that castle has now turned into a fortress, and it has closed the door. And now it’s like, well, good luck with your life. We’re going to give you, you know, a month or two of severance and, uh, we wish you well. We’ll pray for you. And and that’s the point where we have a lot of folks in the church who loved that pastor who start to light their torches and say, what are you doing to that person I love? And, and and they, they feel it comes from a place of empathy.

Matt Davis — And I think that what we have, especially in ministry leadership, whether it’s and we work with churches or non-profits or higher-ed, but anywhere I say where, where the kingdom where the church can mess things up, we want to be able to help in those transition spaces so that we can do it better. Because while it’s prayerful and elder-run and and it’s it’s sacred going in, that that outgoing pastor is dealing a lot more with legal and HR, and that transparency and church culture that we tried to create. It’s like, hey, we have open doors and we love everybody here. All of a sudden when we have somebody who’s leaving staff, it all of a sudden becomes very quiet. We don’t really know what’s going on. There’s lots of closed doors, lots of hushed meetings. There’s there’s shame involved sometimes. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like we’re being very truthful. So how do we actually make this a process, from the very beginning, that that says, look, we’re going to bring you on this way, and there is going to probably come a day when you’re not going to be here anymore. And we promise to honor you and give you the dignity that you deserve as a fellow, like person, part of the family, the body of Christ that you deserve.

Rich Birch — Hmm. Okay, I love that. That’s so great. And, you know, I think this is one of those areas, you know, we joke at unSeminary that, you know, it’s the stuff they didn’t teach you in seminary.

Matt Davis — Right.

Rich Birch — And on a more, say, a performance-based departure, if there’s a pastor who’s, you know, kind of paint a picture, let’s say I’m an executive pastor and there’s a team member on our team. And, and let’s say I’m starting to walk them through a, a reasonable performance-based process where it’s like, hey, we’ve documented, we’ve had a conversation. Hey, here’s some areas where they’re not going, well. We’ve maybe done that for a month or two, and I suspect, and we’re just not seeing on the other end this thing is just not, they’re not, we’re just not seeing the performance that we’re looking for.

Rich Birch — And I suspect oh, it’s gone from like, okay, I’m coaching this person to now in the documentation, I’m starting to use language like, if we don’t see this change we might need to come towards a transition. Give me some coaching. What should I be thinking about in that moment to make this, you know, kind of the best practice, the honoring this other person? How can I kind of lead that when I’ve, you know, assume that I’ve, I’ve been leading to this point in a reasonable way? It’s not like this isn’t like I woke up one night, I had a bad burrito last night, and I’m like, okay, I’m getting rid of that guy tomorrow. It’s like we’ve actually been walking through. We’ve been having a reasonable process. It’s been documented. We’ve had multiple months of that. We’ve been having these conversations. I’m starting to think, okay, this isn’t we’re not seeing a turnaround. I need to actually start this conversation. What would some of your coaching be to us as we’re thinking about that, to make it kind of as painless or as positive as we possibly can, for both us and this person?

Matt Davis — Well, let’s say from the get go, you’ve already done a little bit of the work because you have been in a process of trying to fix what’s broken, right, what’s not working. So sometimes it is just it’s a fit issue, and you’re a youth pastor, but you don’t like youth, so we gotta we need to make a change.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Matt Davis — So oftentimes, you know, someone will come to us, an elder board, somebody will come and they’ll say, hey, we’re having an issue. We have a worship leader that can’t sing. It’s like, okay, well, um…

Rich Birch — That’s a problem.

Matt Davis — …we’re not just trying to help them get rid of somebody. But the first question is, can we actually avoid a transition? Um, what have you done as far as leadership development to try to actually fix the issue? So if we don’t have that issue, if we can’t solve that issue, I think that there’s a couple of approaches. Number one, I would say rather than this castle motif, I think we need to look at this as more like a garden, right? Like that somebody’s…

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Matt Davis — …been planted in there and there’s a lot of care that’s going into that garden. But sometimes somebody needs to be transplanted. And and they’re just not growing. They might not be in the sun in that spot. They… But we also talk about this idea of wearing different hats. And the weirdness in ministry is that because there is this ministry aspect, we’re growing the kingdom, our faith. It’s it’s very integral to who we are as, as humans. But it’s it’s not just an employee/employer relationship. We’ve we’ve crossed lines. And it’s kind of hard to not cross some of those lines just into friendship. And so sometimes we have to be able to say, hey, I need to wear my my boss hat right now.

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Matt Davis — And the boss hat is going to say, uh, we’re struggling. This is something that we’ve been talking about, and we’ve tried to be preparing you. And I don’t think that anybody should ever really be in a place of surprise: you’re being let go today, right?

Rich Birch — No, no.

Matt Davis — So if that’s how we’re doing it, then we’re immediately starting this path towards pain and hurt that that could be avoided. So, you know, I would start that conversation by saying, look, I’m going to start here by wearing my boss hat. Um, we’ve been talking over the last 3 to 6 months about how you’re doing in this position. We’ve talked about how you’re feeling about it, how we’re feeling about it, what is not getting done, what is getting done. And and we think that we’re here today to talk about a change that needs to be made, regarding your employment. And then we can immediately also take that hat off and say, but now I also want to put on my friendship hat. And you say, this kills me, like we’ve had friendship, we’ve gone to baseball games, I love you and I care about you. And this is really hard. And I know it’s really hard for you, but it’s also I want you to know that this this pains me that that we weren’t able to rectify this, but we’re also not done with you. And we do care about what is next for our ministry here in the church. We want our next season to be thriving and good, but we also care about you and your next season.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s good.

Matt Davis — And so it’s, you know, if you’ve ever been broken up with in high school, like the girl who dumped you is not necessarily going to be the one that’s going to be able to fix things for you and help your broken heart, right?

Rich Birch — Sure.

Matt Davis — So that’s where we come in with Pastoral Transitions. And on that day, we call it day zero, the day that you’re you’re let go. It’s your last day in ministry in that spot. We’ve set up and we’re helping the leadership in that organization to be able to have this conversation well, and how do we actually message this transition well? But they’ll actually have a letter that’s from me and they’ll give it to that person they’re letting go and say, we do care about you. And this is just a note. We’re working with Pastoral Transitions, and we are we care about what’s next for you. They give them that letter. And that letter basically says, if you’re getting this welcome, you’re entering a season of change and transition. And because your church cares about you enough, they want you to thrive going forward.

Rich Birch — Right.

Matt Davis — And so we’re going to be working with you.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Matt Davis — And so that’s that’s kind of the beginning. And I think that that’s a better way to do it. And then the leadership, the pastor, the executive pastor, the senior pastor who’s also the friend, they don’t have to try to fix the problem for them going forward.

Rich Birch — Right.

Matt Davis — I remember when I came out of ministry, uh, it was really hard because I had elders like, hey, you should check up on this job lead right here. Or I heard this counselor’s really good. They don’t have to do that. They can just be my friend…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Matt Davis — …and they can just say, how are you doing?

Rich Birch — How are you doing… yeah.

Matt Davis — And hopefully you’re having a point where you can do that. Does that does that help? Does that make sense?

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s good. That’s super helpful. Yeah, that that’s great. What what about the other side? So maybe a little a little darker example. I’m sure you run into these. Maybe I’m on the other side and I um I’ve just had a very surprising conversation where, you know, I, you know, my executive pastor pulled me into my, the office and said, like, you know, this is this is done. I thought we were having months of developmental conversation. And it turned out that’s not actually what we were having. We were it actually was just leading to, okay, now I’m now I need to be transitioning. How what do you say to a person who’s in that moment, and is like, there’s all that disoriented, okay, what what do I do now? Um, how what would be some of those initial steps that they should be thinking about?

Matt Davis — Yeah, one of the things that we we talk about a lot, there’s this, um, kind of framework in psychology, it’s called the Johari Window. And it’s there are things that are known and unknown to me, myself. And then there are things that are known and unknown to others, right?

Rich Birch — Yep.

Matt Davis — And so, yeah, the places that are open are known to me and known to you, but the places that are known to me and unknown to you, those are hidden, right? The places that are known to you, but unknown to me, those are the blind places in our life. And so we look at this as, and the places where there are hurt, it’s hurt for the church when the pastor is hiding something, whether that’s sin or just an itch to leave. But the pastors that we’re dealing with coming out that are really struggling are the ones that have been blindsided. And they’re trying to figure out what is happening.

Rich Birch — Right.

Matt Davis — And it does feel like the rug has been pulled out. We’re not getting paid a lot of money to begin with. So how do we actually like, what’s my runway and how am I going to do this?

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah.

Matt Davis — What do I… All of that stuff becomes very difficult. And so there are things that we talk about, right. So we’re working through with them, um, stuff like, uh, identity, assignment, and calling. And let’s get really clear on those. Who are you? If you asked me five years ago, uh, tell me about yourself, I would say that I would answer it in terms of my identity and my calling. I am a pastor, and that’s what God has called me to do.

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Matt Davis — Five years out, I can look at that and say, really it was just an assignment for me. And even though I preached it for years that my I am a child of God, the beloved of God, Henri Nouwen, really, it was an assignment. And now how do I actually leverage this assignment to do something great? But even the Psalms, um, are a great metaphor, right? There are Psalms of orientation to be in the presence of God, and then there are psalms of disorientation. Why do you hide your face from me? But what we really want—and it’s the wilderness illustration, right? Like the the Israelites are wandering in the wilderness and what do they want? They just want to go back to Egypt, of all places, right? It’s just kind of a crazy notion.

Rich Birch — So true.

Matt Davis — But there is no going back. There’s only reorientation. It’s a new normal. And so how do we walk people in that season of transition to help them with that? And so it’s giving context to this is the place that you find yourself in. And we’re going to help lead you. It’s a little bit of a, with Jesus. We’re not we’re not we’re not Jesus ourselves. But by by following that that cloud by day and that pillar of fire by night, we want to walk with you in this season.

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Matt Davis — So that’s what we’re doing.

Rich Birch — That’s good. What does that look like? How are you kind of, what is that, how are you walking with someone through that season? I love this. I, you know, I think this is a great service. You know, we’ve had, you know, over the years, you know, I have had people I’ve had to let go and we’ve ended up having to find like I’ve pieced together a kind of like, oh, here’s a coach, here’s a somebody who will help you with your resume, and then here’s a counselor, or here’s a list of counselors. We’re willing to pay you X amount of dollars for however.

Matt Davis — Right.

Rich Birch — And then plus, here’s your, you know, here’s the severance or whatever that looks like. But it sounds like you guys are kind of offering a bunch of those services in in one. What does that typically look like? Like how do you typically structure that kind of relationship with the person? What do they experience beyond that day zero they get the letter. Um, then, you know, how are you coming alongside them?

Matt Davis — Right. So you can take the church out of the pastor, but you can’t take the pastor out of the church. So we have three C’s for you on this one. This should help. Um, we’re working with them in the areas of career, coaching, and counseling.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Matt Davis — And so really the genesis of Pastoral Transitions is, uh, there’s a guy named Bill Tom, and he and I started this together. And, uh Bill, just Christian in the marketplace. Uh, and he was working really in career coaching, career counseling. He did a lot of executive search. But he kept getting ex-pastors coming in, and he would hear their stories of how the churches really just threw their pastors to the curb, and he just wept for them, and for the stories that he was hearing. And so he he said, what do we do about this?

Rich Birch — Right.

Matt Davis — He actually found me through the chairman of the board that let me go. And, uh, we we brought our forces together. But really, we start with, well, let’s look at what is it that you are equipped to do? And there’s a lot of good transitional skills that you have as a pastor. But we’re working with them. We do assessments. Um, we’re working with groups like Integris that are helping. We do a 360 degree review that’s helping you to, like, maybe you have some blind spots that we need to address. Um, how do you actually tune your resume? And I when I came out of ministry, I didn’t even know what LinkedIn was, much less had a LinkedIn account.

Rich Birch — Sure.

Matt Davis — So how do we actually help them and figure out what it is. And give them inspire them with some hope that there is life after ministry, that God is not done with you yet. So that’s career, right? Um, on the coaching side, we’re working with, uh, we have coaches that are working and, and really asking that question, um, where is God at for you in this season? How are you doing? Um, we’re also doing coaching with, uh, life and leadership, like you probably heard of, uh, Townsend Leadership.

Rich Birch — Mmm-hmm.

Matt Davis — Um, um, or we’re even working with, uh, groups like Thrivent, and we have some accountants and some other people that are on the financial coaching. How much burn rate? What’s your burn rate and how much runway do you have?

Rich Birch — Right.

Matt Davis — So that’s under this category of coaching. And then the last area is counseling. And oftentimes we need a lot of that. And so we have built out a network of of therapists, Christian therapists throughout the country. And we’re looking at it for you as an individual. But we also have it for you with your spouse. Maybe your spouse needs it. We see a lot of angry, angry spouses. They said, we blood, sweat, and tears for this much time. We never got to sit together, drive together to church.

Rich Birch — Yeah, so true.

Matt Davis — And now this is what happens. And then the kids. I remember, um, on my on the Sunday that they were announcing that I’m no longer at the church. Uh, we had to get away. We went down to San Diego for the weekend just so we could not you did not have to be in there and dealing with all of that. But I remember being in the pool with my middle kid. And he looked at me and he was crying and he said, dad, but I liked being a a pastor’s kid.

Rich Birch — Oh man.

Matt Davis — And that was the moment just it broke my heart.

Rich Birch — That’s like, you know, a dart right to your heart. Gosh. Oh my goodness. Yeah. Oh, wow.

Matt Davis — So we realized that like really this was it was really encompassed a lot. My wife wrote an incredible article that we talk about a cord of three strands, but when you’re in ministry, there’s this fourth strand that is wound in there. And when you start to pull that out, it starts to unravel all of these other strands that are in there. And it’s really painful, especially when you have your identity wrapped up in it. So, we walk with them, and that letter that we give to the the pastor on that on that day that they’re being released, um, they it says basically, here’s my cell phone. You can call me five minutes after you walk out the door, or you can call me whenever you want. But if I don’t hear from you in 48 hours, then I’m going to reach out. And we walk with them. And we do an intake just figure out what what do you need? Right? Like, are you just going to go and work with your uncle’s construction company, or are you just totally fine? But we’ll we’ll do this intake and just figure it out. And over the course of six months, we’re going to help them transition and figure out what is new. And you might need a lot more counseling than that. But what we’re really trying to do, what we’re at is to build unity in the church, and to stop this breakdown, to stop deconstructing…

Rich Birch — So good.

Matt Davis — …like these pastors that are looking at the church that let them go and attribute all of this pain to their relationship with God. We know pastors that have deconstructed, they’ve walked away. And we think like it could have been different. And in fact, even after I was no longer serving at my church, um, part of the conditions of me being there was that we still had to go to the church. Um, which was a whole nother crazy story. And it was really, really difficult to do that, that piece. But I remember about two months into that, there was a guy that goes to the church, comes up to me and says, hey, pastor, I don’t know what you did, but I’m sure as hell glad that the elders don’t know what I’ve done, because they would have kicked me out a long time ago.

Rich Birch — Oh, wow. Okay.

Matt Davis — And that was the moment I realized the people are watching.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Matt Davis — The people are watching how we treat one another.

Rich Birch — Sure.

Matt Davis — How do we love one another? And it either sends them into one of two places. One is protection, or the other one is performance. That if it’s protection, I’m not safe here with my sin or whatever I have going. Or performance, I better be really, really good because this environment isn’t safe. And so people will just silently, slowly drop out.

Matt Davis — And that’s where we see division. It’s it’s it’s, uh, why I’m wearing the hat. This hat means multiply, not divide. If we could actually restore the mission statement that Jesus left us with go out and to make disciples. Um, we’re not going to solve all the problems in the church, but we’re at least trying to do one thing where we stop division in this place. And we model to our people what it looks like to to be known by our love.

Rich Birch — Love it. I just think this is great. What a what a great service to, you know, to the church and to to people leading. And I love that passion of like, how do we how it’s possible for us to come through this and ultimately the, the body of Christ be stronger – that that’s our hope. We believe that this person is is in the right seat on the bus if it’s come to that. And man, if we could get them repositioned somewhere else in the Kingdom, um, man, there could be such, such a great upside and we could see more people reached. But oftentimes it doesn’t, you know, it just doesn’t end up there. It ends up in this, you know, it’s a very painful, uh, painful spot.

Rich Birch — Let’s talk about and I know you’re not a lawyer, so don’t play one on the internet. But why do so many of these conversations end up becoming, it’s like they become these very legal, like, sign this document, sign this NDA, make sure you say all kinds of positive things about us. Don’t ever, you know, don’t ever say anything negative online. Why does it all why does it seem to end up in that situation so many times, as opposed to like a familial, hey, we’re like family here, and we’re still trying to figure out how we can have, sit at Thanksgiving together. How do we, you know, why does that end up that way?

Matt Davis — Yeah. And I think that’s the part that that makes people have trouble trusting the church.

Rich Birch — Right.

Matt Davis — And we’re not like, hey, let’s number one, we’re not like, you should never fire somebody.

Rich Birch — Right.

Matt Davis — There are certainly times where people need to be let go. But there is this piece that we have to honor people and give them dignity on the way out. And so sometimes that does mean that we’re not sharing their story with everybody in broadcasting that out on the internet…

Rich Birch — Sure.

Matt Davis — …and in the service, that to the extent possible, how do we actually give them that privacy that they need and still be honest? And so there are like I do think that there is a need for legal, but I don’t think legal should be running the show, right? And so…

Rich Birch — Oh, that’s good, that’s good.

Matt Davis — …there are better ways to do this. What does it look like to bring um, and somebody asked me, they just said like so, so Matt, like, I didn’t get to say goodbye to my church. Um, I was, you know, the drawbridge was let out. I walked across with my family, and then it was brought back up. And it was it was always something that was it’s still is a little bit painful to, like, just kind of think about that. What does it look like? Somebody asked me, well, Matt, what did you need? What what would have been really helpful in that? And to just be able to acknowledge and say, your time here was incredible. Your time here was valuable.

Rich Birch — Right.

Matt Davis — Um, that sometimes we throw the baby out with the bathwater. What does it look like to be able to just hey, we’re sending we’re sending Matt out, but we’re also sending him with a note from everyone in our congregation. And we’re going to, because we care about this human. Um, we’re here’s a postcard for everybody, and we’re taking ten minutes in the service right now, and we’re just going to we’re going to we’re going to write this. What what does that look like to be able to say…because I think we talk about these things afterwards, right? And and maybe much longer. And so there’s always, you know, we always want closure. But I think there are better ways. And I do think that if we’re that there has to be a legal piece to this, but that is not all that it has to be. It’s not either/or. It’s both/and.

Rich Birch — Um, yeah, it’s like, I like that, you know, it’s not, shouldn’t be the driver in the car. You know, it needs to be in the car. It needs to be a part of the conversation. We need to be thinking about it. But, um, and, and and frankly, sometimes relationships get to that point where it’s like, okay, we may have to be, um, it may have to degenerate to that, but, man, we don’t have to start there. We don’t that shouldn’t be our our opening volley, you know, for us. And, um yeah, I love that that coaching. That’s that’s so good.

Rich Birch — So churches that would reach out to you and say, hey, we’d love to talk with them, when, when typically in this process are they do they reach out to you? Or maybe a better question is when should they reach out to you? When should they say, you know what? I remember hearing these guys on this podcast a couple of years ago and what was their name? Let me go back and search that and find those guys. When at what point along the way should they say, hey, let’s reach out to the Pastoral Transitions people?

Matt Davis — Well, I would say in an ideal world that you should be talking about your last day of ministry on your first day of ministry.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s good.

Matt Davis — And I would tell somebody, you know, to the extent that we just put a lot of effort into bringing you on into this position, we also want you to know, uh, we want to talk about and plan for your last day of ministry here. So what does that look like? But I would say from a leadership perspective, the second that there’s a little like the first conversation that ever comes up, right, like, how do we actually have this conversation? Let’s let’s have a conversation about, hey, we’re just talking about it. And what I think a lot of elder boards are looking for, leadership teams are looking for is can we just run a scenario by you for a second? Um, we’re thinking about this and it might be a year down the road. It might be, you know, especially in this season, I know some churches, they’re looking at year end, and what, what’s going to happen financially. Um, so how do we start to set the stage for some of these things? How do we message this? And there’s a lot of stakeholders in this. We have to message this to the person we’re letting go, but we often assume that that person is going to tell their spouse. And I think that that’s a step that we should not be skipping. Um, how do we message this to the congregation? How do we message this to the the staff that remains, or the volunteer teams that that pastor is overseeing? But really, the second that this becomes a conversation of, I think that we might need to have a change. Um, that’s a good time to at least just let’s have a conversation about what that looks like so that we have a path that leads towards a healthy transition. And it’s possible.

Rich Birch — Yeah, fascinating. Well, there’s this PDF that we’re going to link to that’s called “Beyond Severance: 3 Must-Have Resources for Ministry Transitions”. Talk me through this PDF. This is a great resource. Uh, but tell me a little bit about this. And how could this be helpful in this conversation?

Matt Davis — In the corporate world there is something called outplacement services. And even in the corporate world, if they’re going to let you go, they at least have something that is beyond severance. They will say, not everybody, but some of the ones who are doing it well, they’ll say, hey, we’re going to set you up with a career coach and you’re going to get 2 or 3 sessions with them. Um, we’re going to give you a couple of counseling sessions or something like that. And we just thought, how sad is it, of all the things that the church should do well, we think this should certainly be one of them. And so we wanted to take this, this concept of outplacement services. And we kind of coined this phrase “kingdom outplacement”. And what we’re trying to do is and what this document works out, I think that there are some churches that have been incredibly generous and they’ll say, hey, we’re going to we’re going to make sure that you have severance financially. You’re going to be covered for the next six months, for the next year. And that’s beautiful and that’s great. And it’s a it’s an incredible step towards building a bridge for unity going forward. But we would say that we need to go beyond that. Um, and so give a generous severance. That’s on the financial side. But what does it look like to actually give something beyond that? And so that that is those three Cs that I was telling you about, career and coaching and counseling.

Matt Davis — And so we just walk through what are all of these and how do we walk through all of these different steps. What are these must have resources, all the things that you should consider, and why you should not DIY this, why it’s so difficult to actually try to do that. Your job as the leadership of the church is to continue to move forward with the church.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Matt Davis — Um, and that’s where we get to come alongside and say, hey, we’ve got it from here. Now you can just wear the friendship hat going forward and helping them out. So this resource is just outlining here’s what that process could look like. And this is how, if you’re going to try to set this up, this is a good way to make it happen.

Rich Birch — I love it. So good. Super helpful. Uh, yeah, I think this would be a great resource for you to start with. Again, we’ll link to that. You can scroll down even on your phone now, uh, we’ll link to that resource for you to pick that up. Could be a good starting point uh, conversation. So just as we’re coming to land, um, what would be your kind of final advice you’d give? As we’re thinking about assume, you know, people are listening to this because they’re they’re either in transition or thinking about transitioning someone. What would be some of that uh, some, some initial advice or last advice that you would give to them is just as we wrap up today’s episode?

Matt Davis — Well, if the Barna stat is true that 42% of pastors are thinking about leaving ministry, and I think that Covid did a number on all of us as churches, I think that pastoral staffs would love to be able to go back to the days where all we complained about was the volume of the worship and the temperature in the sanctuary.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Matt Davis — Gone are those days. Now it’s, you know, you know, what are we doing with, uh, the community and social justice? And where are you at on Israel and Palestine, all these different things. Um, but how do we actually become a church that’s known by our love? If if this is what Jesus is calling us to in John 13, this is a really good and tangible way for us to be able to model for our people how we treat each other in leadership is going to be a really good indicator for our people of how we’re going to treat them. What does it look like if I take my sin and I come to you? What does it look like for us to be able to be a a generous body? And I think sometimes we become pennywise and pound foolish, and we don’t want to err on the side of grace. We don’t want to err on the side of generosity. And I think in the long run, you can’t possibly lose if you are doing this well and you love people well, just as well on their way out as you did on their way in.

Rich Birch — Yeah, it’s so good. Well, I really appreciate this, Matt. I appreciate your time today. And, you know, it’s a good reminder. You know, I remember William Vanderbloemen said when he was doing his book on succession planning that, you know, every pastor is a temporary or an interim pastor. You know, we all are or at some point going to transition out. But it’s like we don’t want to face that reality. And organizationally, we have to face that reality too. And so we want to build for that. Be ready for that. Be able to do that well. And I love the vision that you’re casting here for how do we how do we see this as a way to multiply, not divide? Um, just love it. Thanks so much, Matt. Appreciate you being here. Where do we want to send people online if we want them to track with you or with the ministry?

Matt Davis — So our our website is And you can find us there. We’re on all the social media channels. You can also check out we started a podcast. It’s actually run by my wife and I and it’s called “Life After Ministry”. And we’re asking that question, is there life after ministry? And if there is, is it any good? And so we’re actually walking through, um, and really not going through this, this part of, uh, you know, how the elders messed it up or how the church messed it up.

Rich Birch — Sure.

Matt Davis — But what did you do on day one? What did day one look like for you, and how did you go from coming out of that ministry position to what you’re doing now? And then the last question we’re asking on there is, is there ministry after ministry? And what we find in a lot of the stories that we’re telling, and really it’s a it’s a hub for hope, right? So how do we actually tell stories that are going to give people when we we oftentimes get more people that say, I wish I found you six months ago…

Rich Birch — Oh, sure.

Matt Davis — …and how can I be helped? So the first place we’ll send them is listen to the podcast, because your life is not over as you know it, God is still going to use you.

Rich Birch — Yeah. Love it. Thanks so much, Matt. Appreciate you being here today. Thanks for taking time to invest in us. Thank you.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.