Sean Morgan

Overstaying Past your Prime –
Biggest Succession Mistakes Elders and Outgoing Lead Pastors Make

About The Episode


“Do what is required to finish well.” Sean Morgan is sharing with us today the keys to a successful transition in ministry leadership. If we’re being honest, transition in ministry is not often the beautiful baton hand-off we desire it to be. There are challenges and intricacies that can prevent churches from experiencing the ideal “smooth transition.” Today’s episode offers insight behind the “why” of common challenges as well as guardrails for a better path forward.

Welcome to Episode 081 of the Leaders in Living Rooms Podcast with Sean Morgan.

Insights From Sean Morgan


  • Most of the time, churches make a mess of a Senior Leader sticking around after a transition if you’re not intentional about studying good techniques of transition.
  • Do what is required to finish well. Luke 12:48 says much is asked of someone who has been entrusted with much. 
  • You’ll need to learn new depths as you face new challenges. 
  • It will take much energy to transition well. You need to have some margin to do this well (before you’re completely tapped ou


  • Sometimes, pastors know they are done leading, but they are not financially ready to retire. 
  • Some pastors have not yet seen themselves as having significance beyond their role or title in leadership.


  • Outgoing leaders often overlap roles without clarity for the incoming leader. Challenges can present themselves when you’re trying to tip-toe around handing off responsibility.
  • It’s challenging when you hand off responsibility without authority to a new leader. This happens often.
  • Generosity is encouraged toward an outgoing leader, but not at the expense of an incoming lead pastor’s future church budget. Have that set aside in advance before the hand-off.
  • Without clear goals and a clear role, the incoming pastor doesn’t have a clear space to do ministry.


  • The outgoing pastor needs to be positioned to be the incoming pastor’s biggest supporter–publicly and privately. This is key!


  • Overconfidence: From years of success,  (If you really want to learn how succession has gone in a church, you can’t talk with the outgoing leader, you have to talk to the incoming leader 4-5 years after the transition.) 
  • Money: Outgoing leaders are not ready financially to retire. 
  • Identity: The outgoing leader has not done the hard work to be comfortable with obscurity. A new role will be to serve the new leader. 
  • Control: Too many leaders only know how to be on the team when they get their way. They will no longer be “getting credit” when they are out of the role. Someone else is getting and giving credit. 
  • Trust/fear: There’s often a question of whether or not a new leader is capable. Or, there is a fear of new leadership overshadowing an old leader’s impact.


  • You need to plan this more than 10 years out from your departure. 
  • Compensate your lead pastor well. 
  • Ensure and provide professional counseling for your leaders.
  • Set aside a budget to pay an outgoing pastor outside of a future leader’s budget. This can show your culture of caring for leaders well.
  • Goal: incoming leader is unencumbered


  • Outgoing leaders should never stick around for monetary reasons. 
  • Outgoing leaders should use their influence to serve the incoming pastor well (supporting leadership decisions on vision, new elders, aligning the giving base of the church with the incoming leader).   
  • Outgoing leaders should have paid sabbatical time so a new leader can lead for at least six months–to allow the church to form a reset on rhythms. 
  • Outgoing leaders should no longer attend staff meetings. 
  • Outgoing leaders should not meddle in leadership decisions. 
  • Outgoing leaders should preach at the invitation of the incoming leader only. 
  • Outgoing leaders should never allow staff to criticize new leadership.

Episode Links

If you’re a leader approaching a succession or transition. Or maybe you’re a few years in and beginning to see how complex transitions leadership is… go to The Art of Pastoral Succession and checkout my brand new course in partnership with Carey Nieuwhof. 

Are you in Transition or have one on the horizon? Check out our 2023 cohorts and get connected with us at: 

Who Is Sean Morgan?

Following a successful career in healthcare change management, Sean moved from success to significance and joined the staff of a San Francisco area church that he helped plant, as their Executive Pastor.  New Life Church is known for a dynamic, multiethnic ministry that has grown from hundreds to thousands. After being written about in Thom Rainer’s book Breakout Churches, Sean found himself hosting and coaching leaders from NorCal and around the world. Sean is a nationally known coach who has developed a reputation for connecting ministry leaders and being a catalyst of fresh vision; he founded and curates


Thanks to our sponsor: Food For The Hungry.

Combine your church’s heart for the poor and Food for the Hungry’s global experience at

Quotes From Episode

“Do what is required to finish well.” 

“You cannot coast to the finish line.”

“Do the work–in your head and in your heart–to be ready for obscurity.”

Listen to Recent Episodes

About the Host

Sean Morgan is a coach and speaker with a national reputation as a catalyst of fresh vision. His passion is to help ministries navigate obstacles and turn them into opportunities.

Throughout his career, Sean has pioneered initiatives impacting thousands of leaders across the country. He started out serving as Executive Pastor and CFO at New Life Church in northern California.

As host, Sean gives you access to amazing conversations, hard-won wisdom, and poignant insights from world-class leaders in intimate “living room” settings.

Your Host

Sean Morgan

Leaders in Living Rooms
Craft & Character

Subscribe now on your favorite podcast app

Take Your Leadership to New Heights

The Ascent equips you to lean into your God-given leadership potential.

Cohorts offer you the chance to go deeper with a small circle of peers and professional mentors so you can elevate your expertise and grow your confidence as a leader.

Learn more about upcoming cohorts by clicking below.