I have come to think of pastoral transitions in stages. The first stage is when the pastor announces that he or she is leaving, and the congregation makes preparations to say goodbye. The second stage is self-study, where the congregation reflects on its identity and mission. The second stage in ELCA congregations ends with the submission of the Ministry Site Profile. The third stage is the actual search for new pastoral leadership. That is the stage LCGS is in now. Then comes the final stage, where a call is issued, and a new pastor is welcomed into the life of the congregation.
What is a congregation to do while it awaits word that a call committee has identified a pastor it wants to recommend for the call? I’m mindful of the Tom Petty song where he sings, “the waiting is the hardest part.” Even in call processes that go relatively quickly, this stage can seem interminable.
But a congregation doesn’t need to sit idly by during that period of waiting. Your leadership is not sitting idly by and waiting. On Sunday August 4, your congregation council will be having a planning retreat. It will be taking some time to pray about and plan for the coming year. It will identify some goals and plans for the various ministries of the congregation. I’ll be facilitating that retreat.
It’s ok to be working on some short- term goals during an interim period. The important work of developing a larger vision for the congregation can wait for the new pastor. But in the meantime, the ministry of worship, learning, witness and service will continue.
Duane E. Miller