Succession Sunday – 5 Insights from a Moment Years in the Making

Sunday, August 6th was a once in a lifetime moment for 12Stone Church. It was the passing of the baton from our founding Senior Pastor of 36 years, Kevin Myers, to our new Senior Pastor Jason Berry.

  • This moment was years in the making.
  • The years of prayer, preparation and leadership development invested by Pastor Kevin enabled this process to bless the church and bring honor to God.
  • God’s presence and favor was palpable.

Pastors Kevin and Jason will tell more of the story in days to come, and you can check out the actual August 6th service online. But, I’d like to give honor to both of them and God for the beautiful and biblical way in which this process took place.

It’s actually a triple succession, the Senior Pastor, Kevin Myers; Executive Pastor, (myself); and the Chief Financial Officer, Norwood Davis. The three of us have enjoyed the privilege of pouring into and developing the three younger leaders from within our team. They are truly gifted leaders and men of great character. They are Anthony Ferrari, Chief Financial Officer; Dan Vander Wal, Executive Pastor; and as mentioned, Jason Berry, Senior Pastor. The future is bright!

Norwood Davis, a brilliant leader with a heart for the lost, now serves as the Chief Strategy Officer for the Wesleyan Investment Foundation.

(And I would add that WIF is a great place for a church to invest its reserves or secure a loan for its next building project. I’m sure he’d welcome a conversation at norwood@wifonline.com)

Kevin and I will remain on the team for a season primarily in roles of mentoring, coaching and leading to support the new executive team. Now as Founding Pastor, Kevin will also do some preaching after his well-deserved 100 days away.

A wisely led church always honors the past, lives in the present, and serves for the sake of the next generation.

Or an insightful way to personalize it, quoting Dan Vander Wal, “12Stone is anchored in Pastor Kevin’s generation, led by Pastor Jason’s generation, for the sake of the next generation.”

The church should always be about the next generation, right? That’s the future. That’s the purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to reach those who don’t yet know the promise of eternal life.

Pastor Jason’s vision for the next generation is clear, compelling and fueled by a deep and heartfelt burden within him and his staff.  

This is truly an exciting time.

5 Insights From a Moment Years in the Making

2 quick notes:

  • I’m not a succession expert, just a church leader who is blessed to experience one of the best led transitions I’ve seen.
  • None of the following comments are meant to be evaluation, they are meant to carry celebration, with insights picked up along the way from what I’ve learned from PK’s leadership that may be helpful to others.

1) Transitions are never easy, but change is necessary.

Most of us want to hold on to the past. That’s natural, it’s human. Our past is filled with good memories, our favorite music, and life as we know it. It’s comfortable. But our hope is based in the future. We must lead toward it.

When it comes to technology, I’m definitely challenged to say the least. But I press forward embracing everything that is new. For example, when a new operating system is available, yup, “it’s different” but I want it as soon as I can get it. It’s awkward to work with and takes me a minute to relearn the system, but I’m all in! Remember the movie “City Slickers?” Yup, Even the cows can do it! I have to learn!

As it relates to the church, it’s the same. We have to go forward.

Resisting a well-planned and healthy transition of leadership (succession) is to intentionally help a church get stuck and slowly fail.

2) Successful transitions start with the realization that nothing belongs to us.

One of the many things I so respect about Kevin Myers (“PK”) is that he never saw 12Stone Church as something that belonged to him, yet he always assumed full responsibility for the outcomes of the church as an organization and the people as the body of Christ.  

That is the mark of a servant leader.

PK tells the story of the day in 2008 that he moved into his office in the beautiful new building seating 2,500 people. God immediately asked him pray for the next senior pastor who would occupy that office.

Those who lead the church are stewards not owners, and though it may be far in the future, we lead differently if we want to hand the church off well to the next generation.

Empowering other leaders becomes more natural when we realize we are part of the story, not the point of the story or the end of a story.

3) Healthy succession begins with the readiness of the current senior pastor and is completed by the readiness of the new senior pastor.

As a coach of church leaders I have met more than one pastor who is just not ready to make the change, and until they are, the transition is likely to be difficult.

Now in all fairness, when a leader loves their job, loves the people and has passion for the vision, who is ever completely ready? But there is a sense of God’s timing when readiness is appropriate and needed.

There are two important elements of readiness to make a major transition in leadership. They are holding loosely to what God has entrusted to us, and accepting the “next” God has prepared for us.

The second half of the readiness scenario is the ability of the new senior pastor. There are two important elements here as well. They are competence and capacity. Competence is about the ability to lead now, and capacity is the ability to lead larger in the future.

For both leaders, the spiritual component is weighty. God’s voice must be clear and obeyed throughout the process and continue into the future.

In the life of a spiritual leader, prayer is the foundation for all Kingdom-oriented progress.

4) One of the greatest gifts the current senior pastor can give to the next senior pastor is to maximize the blessing and minimize the burden.

I heard it said in one church this way, “I’m so grateful that my predecessor solved his problems and cleaned up his messes before handing the keys to me.” That is perhaps overly blunt, but we know exactly what it means.

Every church is different, and none are perfect. It can be anything from staffing to debt, or perhaps even the church board. The pastor that says, “That happened under my watch, I’ll take care of it,” is a greatly respected leader.

The ways in which an outgoing senior pastor can maximize the blessing for the new senior pastor are many, but one of the most significant is to take the mantle of a “John the Baptist” and prepare the way.

Preparing the way includes a number of important elements such as true empowerment and letting go, elevating the new senior pastor in the eyes of the congregation, developing them as a leader and treating them with a spirit of generosity. Pastor Kevin’s leadership exemplifies all of this (and more) with wisdom, care and putting others first.

5) Next to the favor of God, the spirit of the congregation is the difference maker.

We know that it is God who breathes life, favor and power into a local church. He anoints leaders to rise up for His purposes, and point the way for the people. But it’s the people, the congregation, who carry God’s love to the world.

When each individual in the congregation lays down their personal preferences and picks up gratitude and a heart to serve others, the result is beautiful, powerful, and life changing. 12Stone is that congregation. They are amazing!

To Pastor Kevin we say a heartfelt thank you.

To Pastor Jason we say a confident we are with you.

To the congregation we say, the best is yet to come, lean in wholeheartedly.

12 thoughts on “Succession Sunday – 5 Insights from a Moment Years in the Making”

  1. And it ‘s OK if some key people on staff leave because they realize the way to accomplish the mission is different enough that they are not comfortable. That is not mean one is right and another is wrong, just different. Which is why we are all the body of Christ- as Paul said- the hand does not say to the foot….

    1. It is good to read about the baton being passed. I was in a church where the current pastor was trained by the previous pastor. When the previous pastor started training someone and gradually giving the current pastor he had no idea what was to come. The current pastor has never had to deal with people telling him what the previous pastor did. It wasn’t long after the previous pastor stood up and introduced them to their new pastor that he died. The previous pastor’s family attends and is involved in that church. Today that church is doing very well.

  2. Watched the service and was moved to tears. Seeing how the Holy Spirit has worked in the congregation and the staff over the years truly glorifies God. I praise Him for all the people who have found Christ thru your church. Upon finishing the online service I was prompted to think what it would look like for me personlly to finish well. My prayer is that I am wholehearted and finish well until the end.

  3. Celso Fernandez

    Pastor Dan,
    It was a huge milestone for the church.
    I had not heard you and Norwood were also moving to new roles.
    I am blessed knowing you and learning from you for almost 14 years at 12Stone.
    Good luck Dan. Enjoy being a grandfather.

    1. Hi Celso!
      Good to hear from you. Yup, I’m blessed and will remain on staff for a good while, then do more coaching and consulting.

      And yes, being a Papa is the best!

  4. Congratulations to the Teams, (Outgoing & Incoming) & and the Church at large.

    I JUST SHARED THIS WITH COUPLE OF FRIENDS IN MY CONTACT RECENTLY.👇👇👇

    *Developing New Leaders*

    Jimmy Lastinger is a volunteer at 12Stone Church, and he oversees our Parking Team (I talked about them on a recent post).  I have learned much about leading teams from him, including how to raise new leaders.

    We recently identified a position on the team where our “bench” was pretty shallow.  We do not have enough members on the team who understand how that position works, yet it is crucial to our weekly operation to move nearly 5,000 cars on and off the property.

    So, Jimmy approached his leader who serves in this position and said “You are my first choice…but I need a 2nd choice.  Will you share your position so that we can train and develop more leaders?” 

    Wow.  Nicely done!  In one conversation, Jimmy:

    -💫Affirmed the current leader in that position. 
    📍His skills were recognized and celebrated.
    -💫Pointed out our need to grow more leaders. 
    📍Jimmy did not shy away from expecting action to be taken.
    -💫Included the current leader in the solution. 
    📍He will share his position and help train others.

    So, take a look at your teams.  Where do you need to deepen your bench?  Perhaps Jimmy has provided an outline of a conversation you need to have…

    Thanks for listening.

    Chris

    “A wisely led Church always honors the past, lives in the present, and serves for the sake of the next generation.”

    -Dan Reiland.

    ‘Success without a worthy successor is failure.’
    (We don’t know how posterity will judge us, but judge it will judge us.)

    John Chapter 16 & 17:- My prayer for the leaders and the Church.

    (Thank you for always Dan Reiland; I have learnt and am learning alot here)

  5. Matthew Travis Pless

    “Empowering other leaders becomes more natural when we realize we are part of the story, not the point of the story or the end of a story.” -Dan Reiland

    I believe the above statement fully encapsulates the core issue of smooth succession.
    Concise, Accurate, and Brilliant, as always, Dan.

  6. Thank you so much for this, Pastor Dan! “We [as staff and leaders] are a part of the story, not the point of the story.” Well-said. The stewardship mindset in a senior leader is a critical. I love a senior pastor that embraces the role as CSO: “Chief Serving Officer.” 😀

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