In the summer of 2012, Bryant Wright sensed God was telling him to prepare for his next season of ministry. Wright, the founding pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia, had just completed 30 years of ministry leading the church and was preparing for his fourth decade at there.
His new book, “Succession: Preparing Your Ministry for the Next Leader,” shares not only the personal lessons Wright learned, but practical advice for churches and church leaders as they plan leadership transitions.
“When I turned 60, I realized there were limited days left in my ministry,” Wright said. “And a number of people in the church began to ask, ‘how long are you going to stay?’ ‘Are you going to hang it up soon?’ Those two factors caused me to start thinking about retirement and next steps. I knew we needed to develop a succession plan.”
Wright’s book tells the story of how he and the leadership team at Johnson Ferry Baptist walked through an intentional leadership succession process and provides suggestions for churches and church leaders nearing the next phase of ministry leadership. “Succession” discusses this journey in a way that shows the leadership of an experienced pastor, the wisdom of a knowledgeable shepherd, and the humility of an obedient servant.
The book not only displays the heart of a man who loved and led his church well, but also serves as a model for those preparing for a similar journey.
‘Tidal wave’ of retiring pastors
“There is a tidal wave of Boomer pastors who are about to retire in the next five to 10 years, and there aren’t many younger pastors identified to take their place,” Wright said.
“In addition, most churches don’t have a succession plan in place for when the time comes,” he noted. “I’m hoping this book will help pastors — both those leaving and their successors — as well as the lay leaders in our churches to help prepare for this very significant transition.”
Wright said he doesn’t expect all churches to follow the same timeline and game plan as Johnson Ferry. But churches of all sizes and contexts will find insight from the book they can adapt for their own situation.
“Every church is unique and will need to develop a plan that fits their context,” he said. “No pastor is going to stay forever; having a succession plan in place contributes to the overall health of the church. The health of the church is the priority.”
EDITOR’S NOTE – Bryant Wright served in Southern Baptist life as both a pastor and SBC president before becoming the first president of Send Relief in 2020. On Dec. 15, 2019, he retired as the founding senior pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, where he ministered for 38 years. In addition to his role at Send Relief, Wright serves as founder and chairman of Right From the Heart Ministries, a media ministry with an international presence, and continues to mentor younger pastors through this platform. He and his wife, Anne, live in Marietta, Georgia, and have three grown sons, three daughters-in-law and seven grandchildren.