Shepherd of the Hill Writes a Mission Study

Shepherd of the Hill (PCUSA) is a delightful congregation located in Puyallup's South Hill neighborhood.  They have about 120 in worship on a Sunday and 187 members.  The church has a healthy distribution of ages and a long history of working well together in both ministry and mission. In October 2017, their pastor of twenty-six years retired, and the church hired a transitional pastor to help them consider their history and discern God's leading for the future. Two members of Session were also appointed to help guide this process.

For six months, beginning in January 2018, the congregation met together to tell their story, and connect with the core values that has shaped their ministry from charter to the current moment.  We solicited stories, information, and opinions from the congregation through face to face interviews, surveys (both printed and online), and discussions in small and large group contexts.  Throughout the process, the Session worked to understand and interpret the data, and each consecutive gathering or survey was crafted to further understanding and engage the congregation in discerning next steps. Finally, the Session met to distill all the information gathered into a clear statement of core values and mission priorities.  

It has been a privilege to walk with this congregation through the process, and to help the Session shape both the journey and identify God's leading for the future.   The two elders appointed by Session to help guide the transition have been wonderful partners in this work.  Following the congregational gatherings, and Session's season of discernment, I put together the mission study summary in consultation with the two elders who helped lead the work.   The Session then reviewed the document and gave feedback which was incorporated before it was given to the Commission on Ministry of our Presbytery.  

The congregation and Session is proud of the work we have done, and the study which documents our journey.   We hope it will bear fruit, not just in the search for an installed pastor, but in shaping the mission and ministry of Shepherd of the Hill for the season ahead. Read their mission study here.

Post written by Heather James, Transitional Pastor at Shepherd of the Hill

Heather has served in full time pastoral ministry for more than 20 years, and remembers God’s call to church leadership as early as her young teen years when she led a bible study for second graders.  This call took root and has grown through God’s faithfulness and leading in many different seasons of life ~ a music degree at Grinnell College, pastoral training from Fuller Theological Seminary, serving in parish ministry in both installed and transitional rolls, and spending time overseas as a missionary in Asia.  One of Heather’s deep joys in ministry is leading God’s people in worship through Biblical reflection, prayer, and music.  She speaks with the ability to balance the message of God’s love for us with our call to share that love with others.

Heather has completed year one of Transitional Ministry training through Menucha Retreat and Conference Center, and is currently pursuing her DMin in leading organizational and congregational change with Dr. Tod Bolsinger at Fuller Theological Seminary.

Heather lives with her daughter in an old farm house in Tacoma, WA.  On her days off you can find her biking, hiking, or kayaking in our beautiful northwest region.  She also loves quilting, good coffee shops, and is an avid reader.

Interim By Design is pleased to share mission studies with our community. To share your mission study contact us.

Interim Pastor Online Survey

Interim By Design is conducting an initial online survey to learn about the spiritual and vocational practices of interim and transitional pastors who serve the Presbyterian Church.

The survey takes about three minutes to complete. Answers are anonymous. Results will help to shape a future participatory action research project among practitioners. The goal is to discover what spiritual and vocational practices sustain well-being among leaders who guide the church during seasons of change.

Insights will be shared in upcoming posts.

Survey URL https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VK9X288

Thank you for taking & sharing the survey.

Upcoming “What to Know” Series

Upcoming “What to Know” Series

I recently read this article about what to know about your car if you’re not car-savvy and was blown away by how useful it was. Despite being a competent driver of cars, I do secretly wish they would take care of themselves. But cars need attentive care. Savvy drivers learn what they need to know about cars in order to get where they want to go.

In the same way, leaders of people must learn what we need to know to get organizations where they want to go. The article got me thinking: What does an interim pastor need to know about if they’re not interim-savvy — or simply inexperienced in an area of pastoral leadership? 

Here’s the list I’ve come up with...

    Planning to End Well

    Planning to End Well .jpg

    All interim pastors set out to end well. We know going into a new church that our tenure is short. So it behooves the wise interim leader to follow a simple rule of disengagement: begin to plan for the end from the beginning. For me, this is primarily an exercise in archiving. 

    Here are three things I do to help me end well:

    • First, I keep a file folder in the back of my desk drawer labeled “Leaving”. Throughout my tenure I toss in pictures, bulletins, notes, and other memorabilia that will help me capture the essence of this place when it’s time to leave. In my current folder I have a note from a confirmation student, a caricature drawing of me preaching, two memorial service folders, three notes which were slipped under the door, and about a dozen pages torn from church newsletters, bulletins, session dockets, and newspapers. I also keep a ‘leaving’ folder on my phone with a stash digital images, photos and the like.
       
    • Second, I try to follow a weekly practice of jotting down on a colorful piece of paper one highlight from each week. These are folded up and tossed into a glass vase in an obscure corner of the office. I’ll admit to being more than a month behind in this practice, but I do intend to catch up!
       
    • Third, I keep a record of accomplishments made with each staff leader I supervise and each group I lead. Here I archive a truthful account of the highs, lows, and most importantly, the learnings made in our tenure together.  

    When the time of my departure nears, the desk drawer, the digital folder, the vase, and the records stand ready to help me tell the truth about our ministry and honor what God has been doing in our midst.    

    When it’s time for my final staff meeting, I will bring the vase and invite each leader to draw out a few slips of paper. Reading these aloud invites us to share highlights of our time together. I may also bring some blank slips of paper and invite staff to add their own highlights. Hearing from them broadens my perspective on what has mattered most in this place. Prior to my exit interview I will summarize these findings. 

    When it’s time to write my final sermon, I will use the desk and digital folder archives to help shape a farewell message. And when my keys are turned in and the office empty of all but a letter to the new pastor, I will have also left a letter to each of my colleagues on their desks, along with a small (or silly) memento of our work together. My goal in doing so is to convey that in planning to end well I began to take note of them from the start. 

    Finally, I will write an exit document for the presbytery leaders outlining the narrative of my tenure with said church. My goal in doing this is to demonstrate that I planned to end well from the start and to note the essential roles they played along the way. 

    In what ways do you plan to end well?

    A Conversation with Interim Pastor Stuart Bond

    Where do you serve as an interim pastor and what drew you there?

    Stuart: I serve First Presbyterian Church in Corinth, New York. They seemed to appear on my radar at just the time when I was considering a new call. My sense of them on our phone interview was that they were a faithful bunch who had a sense of humor — an indispensable element if we are going to be able to enjoy life together and move forward.  

    How do you approach the preaching task during a season of anxiety?

    In some ways, I think we overstate the anxiety.  Perhaps a third of the congregation’s anxiety is...

    Step Six (Part 2): Sample PNC Training Day Agenda for Hosts

    Step Six (Part 2): Sample PNC Training Day Agenda for Hosts

    ARRIVAL: Take time to orient everyone to the training location pointing out parking, restrooms, WiFi access, and other housekeeping matters. Help everyone settle in. 

    Keep in mind that hosting at the church, while efficient, may not suit your objectives nearly as well as a more remote place of beauty, a denominational facility or retreat venue. Choose wisely. This is holy ground. 

    Step Six: Equip the Pastor Nominating Committee for their call

    Step Six: Equip the Pastor Nominating Committee for their call

    Equipping a group of people to function together as a PNC is one of the most important investments an interim pastor will make in a congregation. The wise interim knows that the PNC’s ability to collaborate in seeking to new pastoral leadership is mission critical to the future success of the new pastor and the church alike. Invest wisely. Prayerfully attend to all the Spirit’s whispers and promptings. 

    Do this early on...

    What I'm Reading 2017

    What I'm Reading 2017

    Lately I have been daydreaming about this question, “What if, when a pastor moved on, the church knew exactly what to do to find a suitable replacement because a plan and a process had been agreed upon ahead of time?” So, this month I will be reading...

    4 Ideas for Developing an Interim Roadmap

    1. Spell out the steps from former pastor leaving to new pastor beginning using a roadmap graphic for print/handouts—see a sample roadmap below.
    2. Develop an interactive roadmap for digital applications such as the church website and social media.