Mastering Transitions

By Ed Bratcher, Robert Kemper, and Douglas Scott
Portland : Multnomah (1991). 144 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Alex Montoya
3.2 (Fall 1992) : 218-219

Most pastors enter the ministry for the long haul, without thinking about changing churches, being terminated, or even of retirement. Few are adequately prepared for the transition when it comes.

Mastering Transitions is a closer, realistic look at the unthinkable. Like preparing for one's funeral, it serves a much needed purpose of preparing the pastor for the inevitable. The authors share from their personal experiences of having gone through the various transitions, from termination to retirement. Ed Bratcher gives the "hard-earned insights he has picked up through forty-two years of ministerial transitions" (10). Robert Kemper has pastored three churches. Doug Scott, an Episcopal minister, gives the perspective of those who minister in mainline denominations.

For one such as this reviewer who has ministered in the same church for twenty years and has held no other pastorate, the book was extremely enlightening. Mastering Transitions is a nuts and bolts volume on the art of moving successfully from one church to another. The authors discuss how to know when its time to leave a pastorate and the process of preparing the congregation as well as the pastor's family for the change. The chapter "The Forced Termination" by Kemper is an honest look at how best to handle a pastor's "firing." His insights may help ministers salvage a life-long calling instead of drowning it in bitterness.

Part three was very helpful, even for men going into their first pastorate. Here the authors talk about the first year of ministry in a new church. They advocate knowing as much as possible about the history of the church. Scott suggests a great way of getting parishioners to talk about their church. He advocates home dinners and gives a list of questions to help people open up. Kemper also offers a unique chapter on how to live in "The Shadow of Your Predecessor."

All in all, Mastering Transitions is a book one should read, if for nothing else than to understand the stressful process of changing pastorates. It will help ministers and their congregations understand the "silent divorce" that sadly occurs too often between them.