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¶375.2 STAFF ISSUES RELATED TO SENIOR PASTOR TRANSITIONS

A local church will need to consider the tenure of its assistant/associate pastor(s) when there is a change of senior pastor.  There is no single policy that will fit all situations.  A number of considerations need to be taken into account during this transition.  In some cases, the assistant/associate pastor may have been chosen because their ministry skills complement the skills of the senior pastor.  This may not be true after a new senior pastor with different skills is appointed.  On the other hand, the assistant/associate pastor may have been hired for a particular ministry role, requiring specific skills, which will continue without change after the transition.

There is also the reality that some members of the congregation may develop a strong loyalty to the assistant/associate pastor, particularly if the assistant/associate assumes the full ministry role during the transition period.  This loyalty may make it difficult for the incoming senior pastor to gain the respect and loyalty of the entire congregation.  This may also make it difficult for the new senior pastor to recommend a change of assistants/associates if necessary.

There are a number of possible solutions.

  1. Ask the assistant/associate pastor(s) to submit their requests to the bishop to enter into pastoral transition at the same time that the senior pastor leaves. The major drawback here is the church immediately loses all pastoral leadership and experience at one time.
  2. Ask the assistant/associate pastor(s) to submit their requests to the bishop to enter into pastoral transition immediately after the incoming senior pastor is appointed. This allows the incoming senior pastor and board the freedom to arrange for the appointment of new assistants/associates.  It also provides for continuity of pastoral staff during the transition.
  3. Ask the assistant/associate pastor(s) to be prepared to submit their requests to the bishop to enter into pastoral transition at any point up to a year after the incoming senior pastor is appointed, and enter into pastoral transition if the board approves a recommendation from the senior pastor requesting a change in assistants/associates.

At a minimum, the incoming senior pastor must have the opportunity to evaluate the ministry needs of the church, the ministry skills, graces and performance of the assistant/associate pastor(s), and if necessary, recommend a pastoral transition for the assistant(s) during the first year of their tenure.

The official board may wish to adopt one of these policies when an assistant/associate is appointed.  Or it may wish to wait until the bishop has approved a transition for the senior pastor to select one of these options based on the considerations above, and the current circumstances of the church. In either case, the board must:

a). Ensure that assistant/associate pastor(s) are clearly aware that they may be required to submit their requests to the bishop to enter into pastoral transition at any time after a transition for the senior pastor is announced until a year after a new senior pastor is appointed.

b). Ensure that this understanding is clearly documented in a written agreement between the local church and assistant/associate pastor, signed by the assistant and a board officer, before the assistant is appointed.

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