Pastoral Transition Process

Effective June 1, 2021, our previous pastor, the Rev. Dr. William L. Yancey, retired from congregational ministry. Bethel then spent about two years in the process of selecting our next long-term pastor, while seeing to our ministry in the interim.

In June 2023, the Congregation called the Rev. Scott Benolkin to be our new Pastor, and he has accepted the call! He started as our Pastor on August 22, 2023; his formal installation was on September 10.

Our Communications Board has put together this diagram to give us an overview of the process:


The major phases in this transition are/were:

  1. Ending and preparing (typically 2 to 6 months). The goals of this phase were (1) to officially wind down the relationship with Pastor Yancey; (2) to select and put in place the leadership that will guide us through the rest of the process; and (3) to keep our ministries going until then.
    1. The first part mostly consisted of paperwork, in which we certified that Pastor Yancey had left the church records and other matters in good order, and both the Church and Pastor Yancey certified that all financial obligations between us have been satisfied.
    2. Concurrently the Congregation Council, working with the Bishop’s Associate, selected an Interim Minister, Pastor Merle Brockhoff, who will be our pastor for the next year or two, and who will also advise us through the rest of the process. Since it took over six months to find the right minister, the Council and the Bishop’s Associate also selected a trained leadership developer, Pastor Roger Gustafson, to get us started on the rest of the process. Once Pastor Merle joined us, he took over and Pastor Roger stepped out of our picture.
    3. And the Worship Board arranged ministers to lead us in worship each week, the Council arranged pastors to be on call for any pastoral care required, and other boards, teams, guilds, and so on picked up the many various small and large things that Pastor Yancey has been doing for us.
  2. Self Study (6 to 12 months). The goal of this phase was to develop an accurate picture of Bethel’s current status, and what we see as our mission for the future; which culminated in filling out a standard document called a “Ministry Site Profile” describing Bethel. This document is posted on an ELCA internal website, where all pastors that are open to considering a new call can see it and decide if they want to offer themselves for consideration. This self-study process was carried out by a transition team, appointed by the Council, and working in conjunction with Pastor Merle.
    * Note that this phase actually started before phase 1 was complete. As soon as we had a leadership developer engaged, we started assembling a transition team to begin the self-study phase, even before we had an interim minister.
  3. Search (typically 6 to 12 months). The goal of this phase was to find the best candidate for our future pastor. For this process the Council has established a Call Committee of seven Bethel members, carefully chosen for this important task. The Bishop’s Associate assisted the Call Committee in developing a list of suitable candidates; they may come from candidates the Bishop’s office is aware of, by a minister seeing our Ministry Site Profile and expressing interest, from Bethel members who are aware of another minister that might be suitable, or other sources. The Call Committee reviewed information about each suggested candidate; interviewed the candidates (probably initially by phone or Zoom or similar); and, after prayerful consideration, selected one candidate. All of this is done in confidence; nobody outside the Call Committee or the Bishop’s office will know who is being considered.
  4. Beginning (probably 2 to 3 months). In this phase Bethel and the chosen candidate got to meet each other and decide whether to proceed. First the Call Committee presented the candidate to the Council; after the Council agreed, an opportunity was created for the Congregation to meet the candidate. After this, a Congregational Meeting was called to consider calling this person to be Bethel’s new pastor; the call was made and accepted (and financial details of the call were agreed to). He started serving as our Pastor on August 22, 2023, and was formally installed September 10.
Nathan SchroederPastoral Transition Process