By Walter Wieser
There are special times in the life of a church when a denominational leader is able to bond with a church. Pastoral transition is one of those times. For me, I ask to meet with the Church Board as soon as the departing pastor informs them of his decision to resign. Many Church Board members have not experienced this situation before. They can be thrown into a state of confusion, not knowing what to do and where to go from here. It is then that I go through a suggested procedure for calling a new pastor. This does not alleviate the shock and grief of the news but it does give assurances that experienced help is available.
The value of calling a Transitional Pastor (some call it interim pastor) is on the top of the list of subjects I address. I share the qualifications and cautions in calling a Transitional Pastor and suggest some who would fit their situation. They call a Transitional Pastor. Together they go through the transitioning process of relationship, vision and structural renewal. I as a district leader appreciate regular updates and communication with the Transitional Pastor.
Now comes the time to get serious about the actual search process. It is here, in my view, experience and communication with my peers, that the Transitional Pastor graciously takes a step back and allows the district personnel to step in as primary consultant. It is imperative that we be involved at the outset of the search process.
Most of us have procedures in place that God has used in the purposeful selection of a pastor. This includes qualifications and responsibilities of the Search Team; the kind of pastor to be looking for, (the Transitional Pastor has already done a great job in leading the church in discovering the giftedness, experience, education, etc. of the pastor that would lead them in fulfilling their mission and goals), how and where to find potential candidates which would be a “fit” in our fellowship; alert them regarding red flags and cautions to look for; questions to ask that will get the information that will assist them in making good decisions.
I have strong feelings about this. My colleagues and I are the ones who have an ongoing ministry with the incoming pastor and church long after the Transitional Pastor has gone. In fact, he has probably served in two or three other churches before some (sometimes irreconcilable) challenges may emerge. We are going to be called into these situations sooner or later. For my part, I prefer to be involved sooner in terms of strengthening relationships with the church and building relationships of trust and respect with the incoming pastor.
I want to know that the Potential candidate is a team player. That he gets excited, not only with the values, mission statement and goals of the church but also with the same of our district. That he can sign our affirmation of faith and code of ethics with conviction. There are many pastors that are “nice godly people” but may not fit into a particular fellowship.
I thank God for those who have served in churches in our district. I am encouraged by the growing number of gifted pastors who are sensing God’s call to this very important ministry. Let’s continue to work together building strong relationships for long term partnerships in building God’s Kingdom.
Wally Wieser has been the District Executive Minister of the British Columbia Baptist Conference since August of 1990. Since then the district has planted/replanted fourteen churches. Prior to that Wally and Betsy, his wife, had twenty- two years of fruitful pastoral ministry in three prairie churches. He was an assessor at nine Church Planting Assessment Centers (CPAC) with the Baptist General Conference, USA. In 1995 he was one of the founding directors of CPAC and has been a facilitator/assessor each year until the present. Church Planting and Church Health are two of his passions
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