Managing Transition

By Fr. Jeff Lorig, Director of Pastoral Services

We’re about a month into our new priest assignments. For many of those who went through pastoral planning in our rural parishes the new assignment didn’t involve moving, but has involved significant change. I continue to be impressed by the willingness of many of our priests to lead these changes.

It’s common for us to say that change is hard. Personally, I like a change every now and then. Part of that is because of the way I’m wired. The other part is that I’m usually fine with change as long as I’m satisfied that the previous way of doing things is no longer fruitful or I’ve somehow come to terms with the loss of the way things were. Change is not just about what’s coming next, it’s also about what we’re leaving behind.

More changes are on the way. Pastoral planning is far from over and even in the places where much work has already been done, there’s a lot more that has to happen. We’ve changed the wine skin of a lot of our parishes, but they will not able to function with an old wine. Mass schedules will probably still need to be adjusted. Priest living arrangements need to be reevaluated. Hiring and developing professional staffs need to be made a priority. Equipping ourselves and others to share the good news of Jesus Christ needs to become the motivation for everything we do.

With all this change on the horizon, it will be good for us to manage these transitions in a healthy manner that respects the significant loss involved in change. I recently watched a video of a presentation by Patrick Lencioni on this very topic, which I’ll post below. Here are some highlights I picked out.

  • Change means loss. We need to acknowledge it and walk with people who are struggling with the loss. We can’t just tell them to deal with it and get over it. Everyone will experience different losses with the change and express it in different ways.
  • Over communicate the purpose. Give them the “why” over and over again. I know when I get frustrated I have to remind myself why we’re doing this. It’s not just change for the sake of change.
  • Leaders are way of ahead of everyone else. Be sensitive to the fact that you’ve probably been dealing with the change that’s coming a lot longer than the average parishioner. You’ve been in meetings for 5 months. Don’t be surprised that they’re surprised about the upcoming change you’ve just announced. “I mentioned it in the bulletin” is probably not going to cut it for most parishioners. Decide early and often what and how to communicate to your parish. I like to finish meetings by asking, “What did we decide and who needs to know about it?”

There’s a lot more good stuff in the following video. Watch it and share it.

Fr. Jeff Lorig can reached at or 402.558.3100.

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