Steps for Pastoral Change
Step One: Healthy Leaving
Reach out for Support and Resources. Both Churches in Change and Pastors who are departing should contact the Vocational Leadership and Church Support & Development Coordinators as soon as possible in the process.
Best Practices for Healthy Leaving:
- Whether the leaving of the pastor is done under good circumstances or bad, the ministry of that pastor should be celebrated.
- Using rituals in worship for releasing one another (pastor and congregation) is very healing and honors the spiritual richness of transition. (see sample in resource bank)
- Setting boundaries between the pastor who is leaving and the congregation is essential to ultimate health. (see sample in resource bank)
- The pastor should make very clear opportunities for congregants to say good- bye through one on one appointments as well as in groups.
- The board should attend to some important things.
Contact VLC and CS&DC to begin the partnership right away (see contact details above)
- Review with the pastor any specific contractual things that need to be clarified and honored (i.e. vacation time, health benefits, etc.)
- Decide whether a gift will be given to the pastor and how the congregation can be involved in that process.
- Work with the pastor and MCC to make plans for sustaining ministry in the short term.
- Provide a clear list of things the pastor needs to attend to before departure (i.e. turning in keys, providing passwords, cleaning out office, leaving all mailing lists, etc.)
- Once a pastor resigns, the LONGEST time interval before leaving should be 2 months. Long enough is important, too long is damaging.
- If the leaving is complicated, full of conflict, the result of letting the pastor go rather than a resignation, or a vote of the congregation to remove the pastor has occurred, then a plan should be put together right away to move through this process in a way that will be healthy for the congregation.
It is important for pastors and congregations to have clear boundaries and expectations as the pastoral relationship ends. It is crucial for the health of the church that a separation agreement be made and signed by the pastor and board and that everyone understands that there is to be a minimum of one year of no contact between the outgoing pastor and church members.
Using rituals in worship for releasing one another (pastor and congregation) is very healing and honors the spiritual richness of change in pastoral leadership.
Seeking Intervention in Situations of Crisis
When an assessment indicates that some crisis intervention is necessary immediately following a pastoral change, a plan will be put together based on that particular situation/context. This plan will be created by the Church Support & Development and Vocational Leadership Coordinators in conversation with the Board of Directors.
Pastoral Search Process Resources
Visit the UFMCC Resource Bank to find sample documents that you may find useful as the pastor and board create a mutual agreement that can be shared with the broader congregation, as well as sample rites that can be adapted for your context.
Step Two: The In-Between Time
Assessing the State of the Church. As the congregation deals with the leaving of a pastor (no matter what the circumstances), there is a distinct tendency to make decisions about the future from a place of emotion and usually, the overarching emotion, is anxiety. When decisions are made from a place of anxiety, they are rarely fruitful.
In partnership with the Office of Vocational Leadership and Church Support & Development, there are a variety of things that may need to be assessed. In partnership, MCC Staff and the board will discern together what the assessment might suggest as a way forward for the “in between time.”
Most Probable Options
The VLC and CS&DC will begin assessing and discussing a support plan with the board as soon as they are notified of an upcoming pastoral transition. Together they will complete the Readiness to Enter Pastoral Search Assessment form. (see Resource Bank)
The VLC and CS&DC may support a local church board through a collaborative and responsive process of selecting and appointing an Interim Pastoral Leader.
Below are appointment options for consideration:
- Gap Pastor: Is appointed by Vocational Leadership Coordinator in consultation with the Church Support and Development Coordinator and the local Board of Directors for a term of typically three months, which is eligible for extension to meet the needs of the congregation. This individual has the experience, training, skills and gifts for providing an immediate stabilizing pastoral presence, navigating the emotions of change, and leading a church in discerning and preparing for their next steps.
- Interim Pastor: Is appointed by Vocational Leadership Coordinator in consultation with the Church Support and Development Coordinator and the local Board of Directors for a term of 12-24 months. This individual has the experience, training, skills, and gifts to lead a church through the interim process with the ultimate goal of completing a successful pastoral search. Interim Pastors are ineligible to be considered for the position of Settled Pastor.
- Provisional Pastor: is a specific type of Interim Pastor, appointed by Vocational Leadership Coordinator in consultation with the Church Support and Development Coordinator and the local Board of Directors for a term of 12-24 months. This individual has the experience, training, skills, and gifts to lead a church through the interim process with the ultimate goal of completing a successful pastoral search. Unlike Interim Pastors, Provisional Pastors are eligible to be considered for the position of Settled Pastor.
- No appointment. Moving directly into Pastoral Search (Move to Step 3 – Pastoral Search)
* UFMCC bylaws and Clergy Manual state that MCC churches are led by MCC ordained clergy or approved laity. For individuals not ordained by MCC and/or ordained by another body the right, privilege, license to practice ministry in MCC is granted by the Office of Vocational Leadership.
**Please note that compensation for all pastoral leadership positions is the financial responsibility of the church. Full and part time pastoral compensation is negotiated by the Board of Directors and the pastor and is determined by the church budget, equitable compensation guidelines, and UFMCC’s Core Values (Inclusion, Community, Spiritual Transformation, and Justice). UFMCC staff are available to support the contract negotiation process.
Change/Interim Pastor Appointment Process
The VLC and CS&DC will begin looking for good matches for this church and this situation, and walk with the Board through this process.
Top filters for choice:
- Right skills, gifts, experience and education
- Availability and Timing
- Right fit for this church within its means
When the VLC & CS&DC have identified a potential candidate, a meeting with the prospective appointee and the board is arranged. Prior to the meeting the VLC and CS&DC will share the candidate’s resume and other items, such as links to sermons and other recordings that offer more insight in their ministry gifts and style.
The meeting is an opportunity for the appointee to meet the board and for both parties to ask questions and share ideas. If after the meeting both the pastoral candidate and board share with the VLC and CS&DC that they are discerning a call to move forward, they will be invited to meet together to discuss more details of a start date and compensation package.
Making the Appointment
If the board and pastoral candidate mutually discern that this is a good match they will inform the VLC and CS&DC who will assist with creating a contract and covenant. The contract is between the church and the pastor. The covenant is between the pastor and UFMCC. The appointment of an interim pastor does not require a congregational vote.
Step Three: Pastoral Search
An Introduction to Pastoral Search
In consultation with the VLC and CS&DC, a collaborative decision will be made as to whether the church is ready to move forward toward Pastoral Search.
Please be in contact with MCC staff prior to beginning a pastoral search and especially before electing a pastoral search committee.
Once readiness is achieved, the board should proceed to put together a Pastoral Search Committee in accordance with the local church bylaws and in conversation with the VLC and CS&DC. When a Pastoral Search is selected they should be connected with the VLC and CS&DC by the Pastor or the Vice-Moderator when there is no interim or settled pastor in place.
It is important to remember that there are roles for both the Board and the Pastoral Search Committee in this process. For a most successful search both groups should review and be familiar with the Pastoral Search Guidebook.
Pastoral Search Guidebook and Resources
Please visit the Resource Bank to access the current Pastoral Search Guidebook and Resources.
Clergy wishing to have a more in-depth discernment discussion of present or upcoming vocational opportunities are encouraged to contact MCC Vocational Leadership Coordinator, Rev. Cathy Alexander at revcathyalexander@MCCchurch.net
Step Four: Welcoming a Settled Pastor
Best Practices for Welcoming a Settled Pastor:
- Be proactive to assist the pastor with finding a home.
- Be sensitive and helpful around the needs of the pastor’s family, including and not limited to employment and schooling.
- Plan activities upon the Pastor’s arrival that are designed to assist the pastor and their family in getting settled and feeling comfortable.
- Plan a thorough process for passing along information to the new pastor.
- Plan a way to introduce the new pastor to the community and community leaders.
- Assist with and pay expenses for the pastor’s actual move.