Developing a Church Staff and Volunteer Succession Plan

Posted by Aaron Buer on April 22, 2021

Over spring break, my wife and daughter took an epic road trip from Michigan to Florida.

In my family, either my wife Katie or I take a trip with each child on their 13th birthday.

It’s a great opportunity to create memories and engage in meaningful conversations.  

On their road trip, everything was going swimmingly until a disagreement developed between my car’s engine and the transmission in the middle-of-nowhere Georgia. 

The thing about cars is they break down. They have a lifespan.

No one expects a car to last forever.

Those of us who are planners, well, we set aside funds for replacing cars before they decide to ditch us.

Planning for the Future

While cars and church staff aren’t very similar, they share one commonality: they don’t last forever.

At some point, every staff member will transfer to another church, decide they want to be a stay-at-home parent, step away to care for an aging family member, or retire.

My point is, every one of us will leave our position at some point.  

And, it’s not just staff members.

Your volunteers, even the most invested, will one day move on.  

So, what’s your plan for that?

If you don’t have a plan, then you’ll soon be stuck.

Progress will grind to a halt and you may lose momentum for months or even years.

This happens, and it happens often.  

Here’s a project we’re pursuing at my church: Everyone has a succession plan.

I know what you’re probably thinking. “Wait.  Are you trying to replace me?!?”  

Actually, yes, but not like that.

Creating Your Succession Plan

What if you were the one working on your succession plan?

Who would you choose to take your job if you had an unexpected change in your life that required you to step away from your position?

How would you develop that person now to prepare them for the role in the future?  

  • How would you invest in them?  
  • What skills would you help them develop?  
  • Who would you connect them with as a mentor?  
  • What gaps in their skill set or knowledge base would you seek to fill?  
  • What weaknesses would you identify and challenge?  
  • What tasks would you train them in? 

What if every person on your staff or even your volunteer team pursued this project?

What if you required it as part of their job?

You’d probably be far more equipped for the future than you are right now.

Questions to Ask Your Church Staff

If you’re interested in pursuing this project, here are a few questions to ask your staff to get a conversation started.


  1. If you chose to leave your position, who would be your choice to replace you?  
  2. What strengths does this person possess that would make them successful?  
  3. What development/investment would this person need to be successful in your position?

Wrap Up 

Everyone needs a succession plan. No one will stay in their position forever.

What’s your succession plan?  

By the way, if you’re still concerned, my wife and daughter made it to Florida just fine, and I’m still pursuing a succession plan for my Honda. Thanks for asking. 

Topics: Advice

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