Over the last 3-4 years or so I have personally interacted with eight churches in NZ that have had a leadership succession occur or are talking about it or attempted it but were unsuccessful or in some cases planning a leadership succession process at present. Three churches are in excess of 1000 people in attendance, two are around 500 in regular attendance and the remaining three between 200 – 300 in regular attendance. All of them are unique as you would expect. I had the privilege of a front row seat at Willow Creek Community Church before things went badly (I had a one-on-one conversation with Bill Hybels about this issue back in the day) and now I am watching Saddleback Church with interest since Rick Warren announced publicly a few months ago that Saddleback Church are looking for a successor for him probably from outside Saddleback Church.
There are a huge number of pastors in NZ who are around 65 years of age currently still ‘employed’ as Senior Pastor of their churches in NZ. There is no doubt that many baby boomer pastors are holding on to their roles into their late 60’s and even into early 70’s. A few of these churches are quite high-profile mega churches whose SP is either the ‘founding pastor’ or has served that church in excess of 30 years. In fact, it would be fair to say that many baby boomer pastors are struggling if not refusing to let go despite growing health issues in some cases. In more cases than we may appreciate there is a financial consideration. That is to say that the 65 your old pastor still has a mortgage and/or is worried about his retirement savings.
These are my opening paragraphs in an article I have written on this subject. In the article I cover ‘hand-off’s to family members, internal and external succession decisions. I write about the importance of a good succession plan and briefly touch on power, personality, preaching and emotions. Read more
During lockdown I have written a bible study/paper titled ‘No Longer Afraid’. Here I endeavour to deal with the subject of fear in a way that hopefully brings some fresh understanding on a topic that since Covid-19 is talked about a lot more and clearly a lot more people are troubled by it. Read more
And finally this week. Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church in Seattle, USA.
Studying real cases or Case Studies are frequently used as powerful learning tools in law, medicine, management and politics to mention a few. The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill is exactly that, a case study of a church that rose to prominence and then disappeared in the space of 18 years in Seattle USA in the 1996-2014. It's the story of a very talented pastor, Mark Driscoll who bullied and hurt a lot of people. It contains brilliant insights yet very sad at the same time.
Christianity Today have done a superb job here. There are 9 one-hour podcasts (thereabouts) to listen to and I would highly recommend it to every Christian especially leaders and pastors. Bullying is rampant in our culture and sadly it is in the church as well.
Alan Vink is currently the Executive Director for LeadershipWorx. Prior to this role he has been the Executive Director of Willow Creek Association NZ (WillowNZ), a Baptist pastor (23 years), Bible College teacher, and church consultant.