Transitional times in life and ministry can be challenging. For over eighteen months, we have been in a transition from our home in Northern Ireland, to America for ten months, back to Northern Ireland for two months, and then on to London. We have another couples months of transition as we look for a new home in London and move one more time before we settle into our first ministry.
Several factors contribute to the challenges of transitional times:
- The impact on the entire family. A ministry change, regardless of whether you move locations, will affect your whole family due to schedule changes, learning new things, working with new people, and the stress of change.
- The uncertainty and unknown. Most people like to have a fair idea of where they are going and where they will be living for the next six months or year. When you are taking things one step at a time, not knowing and not being able to make long-term plans can be stressful.
- The relational aspect. Transition will no doubt involve changes in your relationships. Children may have to leave childhood friends. You will be saying goodbye to old friends. And you all will then have to make new friends. None of that is easy or happens quickly.
- The financial aspect. No doubt moving from one place to another or from one job to another will have financial implications. Anytime there are large expenses, it can add extra stress to your life.
Transitions, however, can also be a time of great opportunity as well. So what are some suggestions to help you keep your sanity and to thrive through times of transition. Here are a few:
1. Carefully guard your walk with God. True peace, joy, and contentment come through your relationship with God. He is the Prince of Peace, the giver of Joy, and all that you need. Even when your world is being turned upside down, you can remain calm if you realize you are complete in Him and find your joy in God. (Just read Habakkuk 3:17-19). This means you need to give priority to your Bible reading and prayer time. Sometimes you will feel too busy to spend time with God, but truthfully you will be too busy not to spend time with Him.
2. Faithfully attend a Bible-teaching church. Throughout your time of transition and as soon as you move to a new location find a church where you will be taught the Word of God consistently. A good local church may also provide a place to make new friends and a social connection, but, more importantly than that, the preaching/teach of the Word of God will help you remember what is really important in all the stress of moving. If you are moving to a new place without a good church to attend, then be sure to do family devotions regularly, and tune in to some good preaching via a podcast, online, or audio recordings.
3. Be patient. The danger of our instantaneous world is that we want everything to happen yesterday. We expect to have everything taken care of in one day. Even though there is nothing wrong with working hard, remember that it is going to take time to make new friends, get a new house set up, or learn a new culture/language.
4. Remember what is really important. There is nothing like downsizing from a large house to small house to teach you what is really important. Most of the things we value and cherish are perishable and will not last. In these transition times, remember that you have your family, you have the Lord, and you have spiritual blessings in heaven. Let the moving, cleaning out, and throwing away process remind you that it is all temporal and you can’t take it with you.
5. Make a commitment to communicate with your friends. Don’t let your move to a new place cause you to abandon old friends. They will want to hear how things are going and talking to them can encourage you to keep going. Sometimes out of sight will mean out of mind, but make a commitment to stay in contact, where appropriate, with those you leave behind.
6. Let others help you. The people you leave behind want to help you and by helping you it helps them come to grips with your leaving and cements their contribution to your life. The people you move to will want to help you if you are willing to admit that you are needy. The longer you live somewhere the less you can play the learner card. But in the early days, you will need help and people will want to help. Stop being so prideful and accept it. It will be good for you, and may be a way to make new friends.
7. Be friendly. The biggest challenge in a new place is making friends. Sometimes we get our feelings hurt thinking others should reach out to us, but if we want to have friends, then we must show ourselves friendly (Proverbs 18:24). Invite people over. Meet your neighbors. Reach out. Ask questions.
I will be the first to admit that our transition has not been perfect. We have gotten homesick, felt all alone, and been stressed out. But we are trying to be content and keep our focus right. I hope these ideas will be a blessing. If you have other ideas that you would like to add to what I have written, please comment below. Thank you.