Session Winter Retreat

By Ward Shope

Several weeks ago, I replaced a light bulb in my dining room. I just screwed out the old bulb and screwed another bulb in its place. Predictably, I flipped the switch and haven’t thought about it since.

If only it were that easy replacing lead pastors… But THAT is more like roping a zigzagging calf while riding a horse at top speed. Obviously some people do it, and some even do it well. But even the most prepared have little control over the calf and limited control over the horse at the moment the lasso flies. (And no, there is no intention to compare lead pastors to any beasts in this analogy.) It’s just hard.

At the Session’s Winter Retreat last weekend, we heard encouraging news from the search committee. Already they’re dividing up tasks and developing processes that will serve them well for the duration. We got a quick look at a pastoral profile they’ve worked on, and they will tell us more at the upcoming Congregational meeting.

But finding a good match in a new lead pastor is only part of the task. The elders are realizing that Ron has 30 years of institutional knowledge about who we are, how we do things, and where we’ve been. The next pastor will have little understanding of any of that. How do elders help to bridge this gap? Do we need to better understand and take responsibility for our own leadership role so that the new pastor is not left on his own to figure it out? Lord willing, we want to put our new pastor in a position to succeed for years.

It helps if we’re clear about New Life’s basic commitments. Part of our retreat was spent on reviewing and clarifying our vision to keep us as individuals, as groups and as ministries all heading in the same direction. The heart of this goes something like: “Because of what Jesus has done for us through the gospel, we seek to be renewed, we seek a renewed community at New Life, and we seek to renew the world.” We are committed to passing leadership along to others who come to be part of us at New Life. So we are also focusing on mentoring potential elders.

There’s much we can’t control in this process. I don’t know if professional calf-ropers pray as they let the rope fly. But committing whatever wisdom and skill we might have as a leadership team, we will be praying and inviting you to pray for this complicated but hopeful process as we transition leadership together.