Thursday, March 8, 2012

What to Do When the Senior Pastor Resigns

Pastor of Everything Else
What to Do When the Senior Pastor Resigns

I have served almost 1/3 of my associate ministry (3 out of 9 years), to date, without a senior pastor. In fact, our church is currently searching for a new pastor. Many associates will find themselves having to carry the ball after the senior pastor resigns. Here are some tips from my own experience.

Don’t Badmouth the Former Pastor – Ever. Period. Always take the high road. This is about your own character and behaviour, not the former pastor’s.

Determine Church Policy on Staff Resignations – Some churches and traditions require other staff to offer their resignations – either at the same time, or when the new senior pastor comes in. Some do not.

Know Church Processes – How is the search committee formed? Who is on it? Do the by-laws have anything to say about this? It is unusual for the associate to be on the search committee. However, people will have questions about the processes, and will ask you.

Determine Church Expectations – Who will become the new senior pastor? Will the church begin a search through denominational and other channels, or is the associate expected to step into the new position? Will the church seek an interim pastor? Who will provide guidance to the senior board?  Who will preach, maintain the speaking schedule, fill pulpit supply, plan worship, handle inquiries, do funerals, weddings, counseling, admin, etc.?

Learn to Do a Good Funeral - Because the congregation often knows the associate better than an interim pastor, expect to do more weddings and funerals.

Know Your Own Expectations – Do you hope to become the next senior pastor? Is this realistic? If the church does not go for this, will you accept this decision?

Set Priority Areas – Work with church leadership to determine:  What can go on auto-pilot? What still needs attention? What new areas of responsibility will you pick up? What needs to be put off? What needs to continue? What will not be done?

Understand Your Limits - in ability, energy, time, counselling, authority.

Recruit Help - People often pour out extra effort in an interim time - take advantage of this to lighten the load.

What to Do with the People Who Agitated the Senior Pastor? – Some will pressure to make changes. Avoid making severe changes which will have to be undone or changed by a new pastor. Some people who gave the pastor a hard time will become involved again. Don’t resent the change in attitude. Make use of it. 

Maintain Confidentiality – The search committee process has to remain confidential. You will learn or figure out things from the search committee which must be kept in strict confidence.

Protect – days off, vacation and important family time.

Prayer – use this as a time to draw close to God

In the Meantime, Live! - Any initial panic or anxiety will reduce over time. If there has been significant conflict, a new period of peace may develop. Whatever the situation, things will settle down and a new routine will develop.

Pastor of Everything Else - Mar 9, 2012 Rev. Troy Dennis (BA, MDiv., MA, Arrow Leadership) is Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church in Moncton NB Canada. Ordained in 1995, he has spent almost three years serving as associate pastor without a senior pastor.

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