Session Update: Relational Resiliency

By Ward Shope

We are now about a year and a few months from Ron’s departure from New Life. The Search Committee is working hard to identify possible candidates for the lead pastor position. And we as a Session (the elders) are moving forward in thinking about what ways we need to adapt as we move through a transition from a long-term founding pastor to what we hope will be a long-term succeeding pastor.

None of us at this point knows the outcome God will bring about. The Lord simply requires us to be faithful in the process. Bill Parr, Joe Johnson, and Sam Chez have served as the “Transition Team” to keep us alert and preparing as the timeline moves forward.

In the last month, they have proposed that we bring some consultants in to help the elders and ministry staff prepare for the transition. Some might immediately think that preparation begins with a focus on evaluating leadership structure, developing job descriptions, and re-assigning responsibilities within the leadership – and we will need to do this. But the consultants have proposed a much more relational approach for us.

The theory is simple. If each elder grows in knowledge and trust with all of the other elders, we can weather the stresses and strains that inevitably come with transition. We are also better able to leverage the strengths of various elders to deal with situations that may arise. And because the trust factor is high, there is an ability to delegate without reluctance or concern. We grow as a team, first relying on this person, and then another, depending on what needs arise.

We will also be measuring the hole that Ron’s departure will bring. If you think of this as a wall, his departure will have a specific size and shape because of where and how much he’s invested himself. We could just plug that hole by looking for a Ron clone. But much more realistically and for the continuing growth of our ministry, different portions of the hole will be covered by a number of elders, ministry staff, and volunteers – as well as the succeeding pastor.

More biblically, we are talking about the church as a body illustrated in 1 Corinthians 12. Bodies are always in movement and always growing. Different parts play different roles. But if the whole body is healthy, it can withstand all sorts of circumstances, diseases, and threats. So please pray for the health and growth of our body and of our leadership as we move through the months ahead together.