On Sunday, May 14, Brandon gave a staffing update on behalf of the Steering Committee. Here is the text for those who may have missed it:
I have the privilege of working alongside a fantastic group of people who make up our Staff team. Ainslie, Steve, Sharon, Helen, and Graham each bring the best that they can to the table, serving our church with passion and faithfulness. Before I give an update on our hiring process, then, I thought this was a perfect opportunity for us to say ‘Thank you’ to them!
Back in December, I had the difficult task of inviting both Eric and Steve up to the front to announce their respective resignations – Eric, to pursue his teaching career full-time, and Steve, to prepare for his retirement from pastoral ministry. Since then, we have welcomed Ainslie Martin onto our Staff team and we’ve been blessed to have her leading us in worship on Sunday mornings, while Eric continues to be involved in the life of the church as much as he can.
This morning, though, I will not be allowing anyone to come up and announce anything resembling a resignation. Instead, on behalf of our Steering Committee, I am finally able to provide some clarity on the next stage of our hiring process.
First of all, let me say this – which is an echo of what I said at our Annual Meeting back in March – we can’t replace “Steve.” Steve has brought such a unique presence and voice to our Staff team over the past nine years, that to expect us to find someone just like him would be unrealistic. In fact, I was at a leadership event in Toronto this week and the speaker pointed out that one of the mistakes that senior leaders make in replacing a member of their team is to try and fill the same shoes with a different person – it just doesn’t work like that. He said that any new person will be their own person and will need to fit into their own shoes.
As you’ve hopefully heard by now, on June 25, we are going to be celebrating Steve’s shoes, if you will, with a retirement party for the ages. It will be a chance to honour who he has been as a pastor over these last few decades, and more specifically, what he has meant to us as a pastor right here with Elevation – the way he has cared deeply for so many people and all of the meaningful friendships he has formed.
Our Steering Committee is grateful for the lead time that Steve gave us with his decision, and in recent months, we have been asking some important questions about what we feel the staffing needs of our church will be as we continue to grow into the healthy and vibrant community God is calling us to be. If we think of the church as a body – which the Bible suggests we do – we know that a body must change in order to stay alive. So while change may be a difficult thing in the moment, ultimately, it’s a vital sign we shouldn’t try to snuff out.
So change is the order of the day, but I’m actually pretty excited to say that the staffing changes our Steering Committee would like to present this morning offer our community an incredibly healthy balance of change and familiarity.
When Steve announced his upcoming retirement, our Youth Pastor, Graham Watson, approached me to say that he would be interested in talking about whether there might be an opportunity for him to grow into a more broad pastoral role with Elevation. For the Youth who may still be listening this far into a staffing announcement, don’t worry, his role working with you won’t be changing, but after a number of discussions, we feel that this is a great opportunity for one of our own to grow in his leadership in the church.
Over the next year, Graham will be working his way into a full-time role. The exact details are still being ironed out, but some examples of how his role will expand include: investing in ministry team leaders, helping us maintain significant connections with local mission partners, having opportunities to speak more frequently on Sunday mornings, gaining more experience in the area of pastoral care, and working with me to develop new and diverse opportunities for spiritual formation.
One factor that needs to be taken into consideration is that Graham is just now completing the first year of a two-year Masters in Theology program at Conrad Grebel. So while he will be taking on extra hours and responsibilities over the summer months, he will cut back to his half-time Youth role from September through April, stepping into a full-time role next May.
So there is another piece to this puzzle. As nice of a guy as Graham is, and as many talents as he brings to the table, there are certainly more gaps to be addressed…which brings us to the second part of our announcement, which features another member of our Elevation community: George Werner.
I still remember my reaction the first time George and Eileen walked into the Turret nightclub (where Elevation was meeting at the time) with their kids in tow: “A real, live family!” They joined our community at a time when you could still count the number of children on one hand and instantly we had ourselves a youth group! All kidding aside, for the past fifteen years, the Werners have been an integral part of our church, and now George will be joining us in a new capacity, stepping into a half-time pastoral role.
Two weeks ago, George stepped down as a manager with World Vision’s church engagement division to pursue a dual path of mission and church ministry. As many of you will know, a number of years ago, George and Eileen spent time overseas investing in church leaders in Europe, and George’s heart has longed to be involved there again ever since. So half of his time will be spent as an ambassador for missions in Europe with the Canadian branch of NLI – Next Level International.
As excited as we should be for that part of their journey, the other half of George’s time will be spent with us, joining our Staff team in an associate pastoral role. What does that mean? Well, as with Graham, there are still plenty of conversations to be had, but here’s an overview of what we expect the key pieces of George’s role to entail as he joins our Staff team: providing guidance, resources, encouragement, and support for ministry team leaders, developing new areas of ministry, investing in the leadership of our Mission and Journey teams, focusing on the welcoming and integration of newcomers, supporting myself as we put our church’s vision into action, and being part of a new pastoral care team.
As our community continues to grow, we have determined that broadening our capacity to care well for one another is something that needs to become a priority, as it’s no longer something that can fall to the pastoral staff alone. In recent weeks, I’ve been meeting with a number of individuals who are helping to make this happen – committed individuals who have specific gifts and skills to offer in this area. I’m truly excited about the positive impact this pastoral care team is going to have on our Elevation community, and in the months to come, you’ll be hearing more about how the area of care will be shared among a broader group in our church family.
Finally, then, I will only mention that part of this bigger picture is the fact that my own role will be shifting and changing, too. I’ll be handing off some elements my role and embracing new aspects of what it means to lead our church well as a senior pastor. Never a dull moment!
The significance of the timing of these two opportunities has not been lost on us. Graham’s expressed interest alongside the potential of a bi-vocational arrangement with George provided our Steering Committee with an opportunity to see two members of our Elevation community help address the specific needs of our congregation at this important moment in our history. While we’re very excited about these upcoming changes, we are also aware that plans need to hit the ground before you know how good they actually are. Our team is committed to monitoring these changes carefully, ensuring that we have successfully addressed both the current needs of our community and our capacity to grow into all that we believe God has in store for us at Elevation.
As always, we would invite you to share your thoughts or comments and would ask you to join us in praying for this season of transition as we let go and let come, trusting the Holy Spirit to guide us well through it all.