Retirement and Transition: Part 2

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Justin-Kollmeyer

In February I began sharing with you about the recent reality of my pending retirement as the Senior Pastor here at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church and our transition to the pastor who will follow me.

And I repeat one of my key thoughts as all this unfolds. I remember one of my seminary professors telling me 43 years ago, “Justin, the mystery of life is not so much what happens. It’s how fast it happens.” And I repeat, it’s certainly not a Scripture quote. But boy is it true!

With that tie back to my last article, I’ll pick up the story as I left off. We’re at the point of our Church Council forming an official Call Committee to do the “due diligence” and bring the best candidate forward for final Council and Congregation approval.

In choosing members of the Call Committee, our Council was very intentional about having the various areas, ages, and interests of the congregation represented. And with prayerful guidance from God, that was most definitely accomplished. Of the six members, we had one youth, men and women, members from both of our distinctive worship styles, and a good range of ages. The Council President and I both served as ad hoc members as well.

One of the first projects of the Call Committee was to invite the entire congregation to a Sunday afternoon workshop to have both small group and large group discussions about the wants and needs of our congregation in our next pastor. A skilled pastor from another one of our Lutheran congregations came in to facilitate. This was quite helpful and quite successful in pinpointing what the congregation would want for gifts and skills of the pastor to “follow me.”

As I use that term “follow me,” I want to emphasize how important that term has been for us. Early in the process, our wise retired pastor, who has been serving as our Associate Pastor, Pastor Knox Herndon, whom many of you know, made the statement that from his career as an Army Chaplain, he believed it was important for us to make clear that we were looking for the pastor “to follow” me, not “replace me.” “Replace” seems to have the connotation that every gift, skill, and personality trait that I have as a pastor must be “duplicated” in the next pastor. First of all, that would simply be impossible, and second, that would not even be good.

One of the healthy signs of this transition is that both the congregation and I agree that we need a younger pastor with new energy, new ideas, new strategies, some new vocabulary, some new analyses, some new stating of our vision and goals for the future. This has made the task of finding the pastor “to follow” me even more exciting.

The congregation and Call Committee identified the hoped-for strengths for our new pastor as preaching, teaching, relating to all age groups, making connections with people in the community, giving pastoral care, and reaching out to the unchurched.

Also identified was the need for a solid amount of experience as the pastor of another church before coming here. The reason for this is a pastor who follows a pastor who has started the church and served for over 30 years – that new pastor must have a good bit of self-confidence based on his or her own “successes” in ministry in a church previously over a number of years. A pastor with little or no experience and not yet sure of his or her “own way of doing things” might be too intimidated by the “left-behind influence” of the 30 year pastor. The optimum number of years of experience was identified as ten.

So, with help from our national church affiliation, The North American Lutheran Church (NALC), the committee had soon identified seven potential candidates, one of whom was a female pastor. From full personal and professional printed copy profiles each of these pastors had written about themselves, the committee narrowed the search to three candidates.

A good component of our Lutheran process is that the committee was never “backed into a corner,” being forced to choose from an existing pool of candidates. If none of these seven had worked out, the committee would have simply sought out more candidates from whom to choose.

The three pastors who were the ones the committee prayerfully discerned to pursue were each outstanding young pastors. I, personally, was so pleased and thankful to God at the extremely high-quality of these young pastors. The committee conducted extensive telephone interviews on speaker phone with each of the three, and then decided on one of them for a second extensive phone interview.

After that second phone interview, this candidate was definitely atop the list, which is not to say anything bad about the other two.

I’ll have to continue this “unfolding” in my next article.

[Kollmeyer invites all to come to Easter Services at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, on Hwy. 314, between Lowe’s and The Pavilion. Outdoor Sunrise Service 7:30, Contemporary 9:15, Easter Egg Hunt 10:50, and Traditional 11:15.]