CNLP 156: Whit and Willie George – An Honest Conversation About Succession, Working With Family and Keeping Church on the Move Thriving

Willie George founded Church on the Move 30 years ago. Recently, he transitioned the senior leadership of the church to his son, Whit.

How do you follow a legend? How do you keep a large, widely respected church growing? And how do you handle family tension?

Carey interviewed Whit and Willie about all this and more live at the Seeds Conference. Here’s their conversation.

Welcome to Episode 156 of the podcast.

Guest Links

Watch the interview LIVE from the 2017 Seeds Conference here!

Pastor George on Twitter

Whit George on Twitter

Links Mentioned

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CNLP Episode 110: Jeff Brodie, Carey Nieuwhof and Jeff Henderson on Navigating a Successful Transition: Stepping Out of And Into the Lead Pastor’s Chair

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3 Insights from This Episode

1. Don’t ignore the outward and inward signs necessary to embrace change

How do you know it’s time to make a change in your current role? What are the signs the time has come for someone else to take your place?

For Pastor Willie George, there were outward and inward realities he could not ignore. Outwardly, He witnessed God giving insight to leaders he wasn’t receiving. He noticed staff and members were gravitating towards a new direction in church leadership. Inwardly, he was no longer as driven to plan for the future of the church and could feel himself letting go of the responsibility.

Did he still care for Church on the Move? Of course. What hadn’t changed was his desire for the church to continue to grow and succeed. With all the stirring inside he knew God was preparing his heart to embrace the decision ahead of him. 

2. Be faithful to your calling right where you are while waiting for what’s next

In ministry, we must be disciplined in the act of submitting to God’s will and not driven by our own aspirations. Many times that means waiting and trusting for what’s stirring within us until He’s ready. Find rest in the fact that if God has called you to be somewhere different, His hands will make it happen. There’s no reason for you to force the change all on your own. Get out of God’s way and let His plans come to you. And while you wait, be fully present where you are now; remaining faithful there until you’re called to whatever is next.

3. Plan your transition well so that God can move your church forward

Church on the Move made sure their staff and members were ready for the transition when Pastor George decided it was time to pass his role to his son, Whit.  Here are the 4 steps they used to experience a successful leadership change:

1. Keep Your Staff in the Know – Teams that work closely together often sense when change is on the rise and they are quick to wonder, worry and whisper about it. Once your leadership team is equipped for the big announcement, an All Staff Meeting is crucial to maintaining a healthy work place for everyone behind the scenes in your church.

2. Break Out into Small Groups – After the All Staff, meet with each department to answer questions and continue casting vision in a smaller setting. Equipping each part of your team for the changes and challenges ahead.

3. Inform Key Influencers – Reserving time with key influencers, givers and volunteer leaders will give you the opportunity to thank them for all they’ve done so far for the church and provide an opportunity to request their support in the season ahead.

4. Prepare the Congregation in Advance – When a date is set for the announcement, spend a few Sundays beforehand to prepare the hearts of your church members with messages that touch on Biblical transitions.

Quotes from This Episode

Want to Reach More People? Here’s Some Practical Help.

Breaking 200


I have a bias toward keeping churches alive, and my dream is to see every church grow. If that dream was to come true, no church would close and every church would become effective in reaching the people God so deeply loves.

On September 19th, 2017, I launch a brand new online course called Breaking 200 Without Breaking You.

It’s designed to help senior pastors and their boards and leadership team break through the barrier 85% of churches never move past: the 200 attendance barrier.

So many leaders who try to break it either get stuck at 150-250 in attendance or burned out in the process of trying.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Believe it or not, the reasons most churches never break 200 aren’t spiritual reasons, they’re practical reasons. Strategic reasons.

I’ve been through this journey personally.

As I mentioned above, I began ministry with a dying church of 6 people. By God’s grace, we saw it grow, and I led through the 200 barrier to eventually lead a church of over 1000. I took good notes, and in the course, I share practical strategies that worked not just for us, but which I’ve seen work for hundreds of other leaders too.

I believe these 8 doable strategies can help you too, and that’s what this course is all about. The workbook will also become your action plan to help you determine your next steps in each critical area as a church.

Join the waitlist now to get an exclusive insider information and a free bonus and to be the first to know when the course releases.

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Next Episode: Jon Acuff

New York Times best-selling author Jon Acuff is back on the podcast to talk about research he did about why some people finish their goals when most people don’t. In this wide-ranging interview, Carey also deconstructs some of the rhythms and routines that have made Jon successful. Finally, Jon offers some challenging public speaking advice for preachers.

Subscribe for free now and you won’t miss Episode 157.

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