Helping Families Cope during Pastoral Transitions

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We are often unaware of the grieving that goes on in our families and our congregations around times of transition. Spouses, for example, may feel resentment about not having more say in the move.

Remember that transitions can be stressful times for relationships. Sharing feelings and permitting others to do so is emotionally freeing for everyone.

Other common concerns for spouses include housing issues, leaving a job — especially if finding a comparable position is unlikely, leaving a familiar place and close relationships, concern for the clergy spouse’s heavy work schedule, and anxiety about finding a place in the new church.

Remember that transitions can be stressful times for relationships. Sharing feelings and permitting others to do so is emotionally freeing for everyone. The following suggestions can help families cope:

  • Stay closely connected during this time.
  • Communication is key.
  • Be attentive to your own feelings, especially grief.
  • Attention to your own grief will tend to keep it from hindering your help for others.
  • Remember that people grieve differently.
  • Do not underestimate the hurt family members are experiencing.
  • Acknowledge losses with understanding.
  • Remember that children and youth deal with change in their own ways.
  • Involve family members in the transition process to the maximum extent of their comfort.
  • Provide opportunities for children and youth to say goodbye in ways that matter to them.
  • Continue family events throughout the transition.
  • Try to limit the “negative emotional spillover” from church struggles.
  • Find ways to mark the endings and beginnings as a family.
  • Seek professional counseling if needed.
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About Author

Dr. Lovett H. Weems, Jr.

Lovett H. Weems Jr. is senior consultant at the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, distinguished professor of church leadership emeritus at Wesley Theological Seminary, and author of several books on leadership.


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