Oswald, Beginning Ministry Together


Roy Oswald, James W. Heath, and Ann W. Heath, Beginning Ministry Together: The Alban Handbook for Clergy Transitions. Alban Institute, 2003.

Referenced in: Ministry Transitions and Interim Ministry Summary

This is written in a workbook format to address transitions from the point at which a minister announces his resignation to the beginning of a new minister’s work. For congregations, the section, Pathway Through Transition, helps them engage tasks such as forming transition committees, conducting exit interviews, assessing congregational needs and ministerial fit, developing a pool of candidates, interviewing and narrowing the candidate list, conducting visits, negotiating contracts, helping the new minister know the congregation, and setting up standardized evaluation procedures. The next section, Enriching Transitions, is good for both ministers and churches as they navigate the conflicting processes of ending well with their existing minister while beginning the search for a new minister. There is a good section on constructing survey questions for a congregational profile.

The third section, Clergy Experiencing Transition, is a condensed version of an earlier volume by Oswald, New Beginnings: A Pastorate Start Up Workbook. It is an adequate treatment of the subject for churches, but pastors may want to purchase New Beginnings to get a more thorough treatment of the topics included in this section. It covers the emotions of termination for self, family, and congregation, coping with stress, leave-taking, making entry, achieving role clarity, assessing new congregation history, helping with spousal transition, establishing pastor-parish relations committees and other support systems, discovering psychological contracts of members, experiencing the “honeymoon period” and other stages of ministry transition, conducting a power analysis of a congregation, and planned renegotiation.

From the Publisher

Beginning Ministry Together is about the transition period between the announcement that one pastor is leaving and the time when another pastor is well settled. The message brought by Roy Oswald and colleagues Jim and Ann Heath is that this is not an impossible time to be survived only with a lot of expert help. Rather, even though the task is complex, committed congregational leaders can handle it with the help of people who have been on this journey before. Oswald describes how clergy and congregations can better end and begin pastorates. He shows them how to say good-bye and discern their needs for the future, how to use the open space between pastorates for evaluation and preparation for a new day.

About the Author

Roy M. Oswald is a senior consultant with the Alban Institute with a number of Alban titles to his credit. He has provided leadership for hundreds of conferences and training events in the U.S. and Canada. A variety of denominations have called on him to focus on the pastoral role and the dynamics of parish leadership. He also frequently consults with local congregations and judicatories where his planning model utilizes norms, myths and meaning statements from a church’s past. Roy Oswald is identified with research into the transitions clergy make when they enter parishes for the first time and for clergy in longer pastorates. More recently he has headed studies of the candidacy process, leadership needs of small congregations, and new methodology for assessing ministries using clergy/lay teams.

James M. Heath is a retired teacher of classics at Bucknell University and a transition companion in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. Ann W. Heath is a retired elementary school teacher and a founding member of Union-Snyder Habitat for Humanity.

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