When discerning the types of resources that we desire to provide for our congregations (either through direct development or in partnership with others), we have used a framework in our discernment process that asks a few key questions.
First, what are the largest needs within our congregations? As we talk to presbyteries and churches across the country, we get a sense of the biggest gaps in our churches. Second, we ask if there is someone else who is doing this well at a price point that is affordable for our congregations. If the answer is yes, then we simply want to point our churches in that direction. A great example of this is the Fuller Youth Institute’s Sticky Faith and Growing Young cohorts and coaching. These processes are extremely high quality and accessible to almost every congregation. The third question we ask is whether there are great resources and processes available that we can leverage as a denomination to reduce individual costs for our churches.
It is with that backdrop that I am excited to begin to introduce resources that are ready to be deployed to our congregations. Hopefully you have already seen our email announcements regarding the Flourishing Disciple and Flourishing Leader resources. Flourishing Leader is the updated and “ECOized” version of ELI (Elder Leadership Institute). Flourishing Disciples is the updated version of the Discipleship Initiative that had its pilot phase a year ago. There are also two new resources that are available through partnerships and (are thus available to ECO churches at much lower cost than one would ordinarily have to pay).
The first is the succession planning process. Succession planning is a huge need in ECO, as 40% of our senior or solo pastors are over the age of 60. In addition, we have freedom in the form of new opportunities for creative thinking regarding succession planning. We are learning to use this freedom by trial and error!
Therefore, we have partnered with Auxano for training in the succession planning process. Auxano is an organization that commissioned the Barna Group to study pastoral transitions in hundreds of congregations. Through this study, they determined the factors that contributed to the success or failure of pastoral transitions. Remarkable insights were obtained in three key areas:
How the overall congregational environment effects pastoral transitions
The reasons to use and not use various succession processes such as interim pastors or co-pastor type overlap situations
Actually transitioning authority and influence to new pastors
Auxano created a process and trained some of us in ECO to help churches to develop and implement a strategic plan that will navigate the succession process for their unique contexts and situations. This process includes a full day onsite retreat with the Session or other leadership, a follow up 3-hour virtual meeting with a smaller designated group, and then four months of on-going coaching and support.
We highly encourage congregations whose pastors may even be five years away from retirement to begin this process in order to strategically engage in transition. We have piloted this process with a few congregations and they are already indicating a much greater sense of clarity and peace as they head into a season of pastoral transition.
The second opportunity in which we recognize a tremendous need is the area of helping Pastor Nominating Committees search for pastors and associate pastors. Some larger churches use professional search firms to find pastors. Such firms can help a great deal, but many medium and smaller churches find this option cost prohibitive. Therefore, we asked how we could help our churches engage in this process in an effective and affordable way.
As a result, we have partnered with PDPWorks. This organization has pioneered a behavior profile assessment that is unlike anything I have worked with before. The process that we have developed using their tools is to first meet on-site with a Pastor Nominating Committee for a day to determine the behavior profile needed for the incoming pastor. The behavior profile process goes beyond developing a job description. Though the job description is a necessary component, this process articulates the day-to-day behaviors and temperament that are required of the pastor to fulfill the responsibilities associated with the position. This process not only develops a profile, but it also uncovers differences of opinions within the PNC that may not otherwise surface, or may surface in unhealthy ways during final deliberations over candidates.
After this initial process, candidates take an individual profile called “ProScan” that is then compared with a preferred profile. At this time, the assigned consultant interviews candidates and explores the places of potential match and mismatch with the candidate. The consultant reports back to the committee to give insight, help the PNC determine questions that they should ask the candidate, and provide information from his/her references.
Once a final decision is made, the consultant helps on-board the candidate by revealing the PNC’s preferred profile. Studying the profile helps the new pastor understand the underlying expectations of the PNC and assists the pastoral candidate in developing a strategy to begin the new position well. We have already done pilot runs with a few congregations to hone the process so that it can be as effective as possible!
We are offering these ministries through Flourish, the ministry arm of ECO, which serves ECO congregations as well as other congregations. If you would like more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Please take advantage of these amazing opportunities that hold long-term benefits for your congregation. We pray that your churches will flourish as a result!