December 27, 2017

Transition Ministry Series: A Story from Hope Reformed Church, Kalamazoo

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Moments of transition are sometimes the best moments to take a step back and reevaluate. Here’s the story and process of how Hope Reformed Church did just that.

Our speaker, Steve Hellenga, is with Hope Reformed Church in Kalamazoo. They recently went through the transitional process of calling a new pastor. During this process they sought the help of a transitional pastor, a move they recommend more churches doing.

Hope Reformed Church is a 70-year-old church. They began as a Sunday school church and found their purpose in serving the neighborhood. They soon came to be known as a neighborhood church. In the past 25 years, they’ve only had to call two pastors, so the process was new and foreign. They needed expertise, so they asked a transitional pastor to come and help them.

This first thing they did was to evaluate themselves and see if they were living up to being a neighborhood church. They looked at demographics – does their congregational demographics match the neighborhood demographics? No. So they had to take a look at their programs and traditions that were not allowing them to serve the neighborhood. The transitional pastor was unbiased and objective, helped them stay on track, avoided traditions, and came with a clean slate. This transitional pastor provided an outsiders look that allowed them to identify the things that were not allowing them to be a neighborhood church.

These are the steps they took:

  1. They created a transition team that:
    • identified and solidified bedrock beliefs – beliefs that are non-negotiable; for example: salvation is only through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
    • Identified core values – those things that make a church strong, for example: Hope Reformed Church is friendly and outgoing
    • Defined the difference between theology and methodology – are these traditions grounded in theology? Or is it just the way we’ve always done things?
    • Wrote a mission statement – What is God’s purpose for us in this community
    • Wrote a vision statement – How do we live into the mission statement and stay on track?
  2. They brought these statements to the consistory, and the consistory:
    • Validated the bedrock beliefs
    • Adapted and supported the mission and vision statements
    • Formulated a job description for the new pastor
    • And created search team guidelines – the things they’re looking for in the new pastor; for example, someone who had experience in revitalizing churches
  3. Then they created the search team and used all this criteria to find the new pastor.

Through it all they had to keep the congregation informed. This was a new way of finding a pastor. It was a longer process but it forced the church to reevaluate some of the things they were doing. In the end, it was very fulfilling and they were able to find a pastor that lives into their mission and vision and who validates their bedrock beliefs.

For any church going through a transitional period without a pastor, try reaching out to a transitional pastor for some perspective and guidance.


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