Transitional pastors workshop offers option for pastors, churches

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Thirty pastors and associational missionaries attended the transitional pastors workshop at the Georgia Baptist Missions and Ministry Center March 6-7. Western Heights Pastor Greg Brown, purple vest, said he was impressed with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s humility and that it stands ready to equip pastors with resources “that point away from itself to Christ. I was encouraged to hear their goal is to leave as small a fingerprint as they can.”  JOE WESTBURY/Index

DULUTH — About 30 pastors and associational missionaries attended a workshop on transitional pastorates March 7-8 to learn about the growing option to a traditional interim ministry.

At any time 10 percent of Georgia Baptists’ 3,600 church are without a pastor, noted Marcus Merritt, who serves in Church Minister Relations with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, which hosted the event.

Henry Webb, retired from Lifeway Christian Resources who now co-leads transitional pastor training workshops nationally, one of of several presenters at the two-day meeting. JOE WESTBURY/Index

“Sometimes, these pastorless churches find themselves facing difficult circumstances and become unhealthy. Transitional pastors help churches become healthy so that once a permanent pastor is called, he will have a longer and more fruitful ministry,” he explained.

The new breed of pastor – someone who comes to minister with no intention of being considered as the congregation’s new pastor – usually spends 12 to 18 months at a church. He leads the congregation through eight steps of transition which culminates with helping the “new” pastor get a good start in the church and community.

Dan Dockery, missionary for Carrollton Baptist Association, said he was attending the workshop to familiarize himself with the concept to better explain it to churches who find themselves without a pastor.

Dan Dockery: An option to going straight to an interim pastor

“The detailed information I am receiving is going to help me educate and train pastor search committees. Many congregations are simply unaware that there is an option to going straight to an interim pastor,” said Dockery.

Carrollton Associational Missionary Dan Dockery said such workshops help him educate churches to options in seeking to fulfill a vacancy. Many do not know a transitional pastor can step into a leadership void rather than using an interim pastor. JOE WESTBURY/Index

“This approach gives them an opportunity to work out any problems that may have led to the previous pastor’s resignation or to structural or relationship problems in the church or among the staff that needs to be addressed.

“It can be a good time for healing and reevaluating priorities as they seek a new senior pastor,” Dockery added.

Greg Brown, senior pastor at Western Heights Baptist Church in LaGrange, was attending his first such workshop and pleased with what he learned.

“I discovered churches are on life journeys just like the rest of us. All spiritual pilgrimages require counselors along the way … adjustments and spiritual fine-tuning,” pointed out.

“It was refreshing to see the Mission Board has the humility to assemble resources that point away from itself and toward Christ. I was encouraged to hear their goal is to leave as small a fingerprint as they can. It’s another way of saying, ‘I must decrease that He might increase.’”

Brown added that the ministry’s goal is to “come alongside transitioning churches and suggest materials and activities that predispose each congregation to the experience of the only One in whom all righteousness is found: Jesus Christ.”

A refreshing ministry concept to the corporate world

Brown also noted it was refreshing to learn that in a corporate world where churches often default to corporate metrics – attendance, buildings, cash – they seek Kingdom goals.

The Mission Board’s Church Minister Relations office is available to explain the transitional pastor concept to congregations. Churches already familiar with the option can contact the office for a list of certified transitional pastors in their area.

The Board traditionally only has one training per year, which is held at the Missions and Ministry Center in early spring.

However, a second training has been scheduled for August 29-30 at Ingleside Baptist Church in Macon. Registration will open June 1.

The cost is $115 per minister, which includes materials, breaks, and three meals. Lodging is not included but a block of rooms are reserved at a nearby hotel at a discounted price.

The following video explains the process and how a pastor could benefit from Transitional Pastor Training.

Transitional Pastor Ministry Overview from Greg Schermerhorn on Vimeo.

In a nutshell, the short explanation is: The Transitional Pastor Training is open to any Southern Baptist minister interested in training to be a transitional pastor and lead a church through this time of adjustment. This training builds on the knowledge a minister already has and focuses on this transitional time.

Henry Webb, who serves LifeWay as a contract worker to coordinate the Transitional Pastor Ministry, leads this training with the help of Marcus Merritt, Marty Youngblood, and Bryan Alexander, all state missionaries with Church Minister Relations.

Individuals seeking additional information can also contact the office at (770) 936-5362 or reach Laura Simms at lsimms@gabaptist.org.

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