Q: What is the status of replacing Jay McKenney?
A: No action is planned for the time being. We expect that the new Lead Pastor of Spiritual Formation will want to be part of choosing the worship pastor, since they will be working closely together. The uncertainty of our current financial situation also limits our ability to go forward in filling the position at this time. In the meantime, Phil Church is doing a great job taking on this role, which he had also filled in the past whenever Jay’s health problems kept him away. Laura Vandergiessen has been hired part time to help Phil.
Q: What is the status of replacing Barbara Feil?
A: We have redefined this position and its roles, giving it the new title of Pastor of Group Life and Assimilation. A search team last fall was unable to find a candidate that they thought was a good fit. The search has been put on hold for now. Since the next Leader Pastor of Spiritual Formation will work closely with the Pastor of Group Life and Assimilation, it would be best to hire the Lead Pastor first. The uncertainty of our current financial situation also limits our ability to go forward in filling the position at this time. Fortunately, Sunset has been blessed with a strong group of lay leaders in this area who we know are capable of keeping this ministry area strong in the interim.
Q: Will we continue with the co-lead pastor model or move to a more traditional Senior Pastor / Executive Pastor model?
A: The transition is a natural point for Session to carefully evaluate our pastor leadership model. In order to add depth and breadth to our perspectives on this topic, we are seeking input from multiple sources, including from our Elders who have previously served on Session.
Q: Will we hire an interim pastor?
A: We are very happy to announce that Dr. Jay has agreed to serve us again in an interim pastor role. Similar to last time, he will be doing this part-time in addition to his various other roles, including being mayor of Seaside. His interim roles will include preaching once every month, attending weekly staff meetings, and attending Session meetings. Dr. Jay brings familiarity with Sunset and a wealth of experience from serving as our not only our interim pastor, but also interim pastor for two other congregations since then. Session is very excited about having his wise counsel available to us.
Q: How are decisions made at Sunset Presbyterian Church?
A: Sunset is a member of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church denomination, and so the rules for running Sunset are a combination of the EPC rules, referred to as the "book of order" and Sunset's own bylaws.
The term presbyterian comes from the Greek word “presbyteros” which means “elder led,” and Presbyterian churches use an elder-led, representative form of government. The congregation elects Ruling Elders each year at its annual meeting. Ordained Ruling Elders along with ordained Teaching Elders (pastors) make up the church Session. At Sunset, the number of Ruling Elders is currently seven, but we are considering raising the number to between eight and twelve. Ruling Elders serve for a three year term and then they either rotate off Session or they can serve an optional second term. Teaching Elders serve perpetually while they are in the role of pastor. Presbyterians by design call for more Ruling Elders than Teaching Elders in order to keep the emphasis on lay (volunteer) leaders. It is Session that has the responsibility for setting the spiritual direction of the church.
Session also has the responsibility of oversight for church operations. However, the day to day operations of Sunset are very ably handled by the church staff, with Mike Matousek, Lead Pastor of Administration, directing their actions. Mike and the Lead Pastor of Spiritual Formation, formerly Jason Curtis, report directly to Session. Human resource matters are handled by the HR committee which is comprised of church members with professional HR training and skills.
The church budget and nominated Ruling Elders are both voted on by the congregation at the annual meeting held at the start of the church year in October. The draft budget is prepared by Mike and his staff and reviewed by Session. The nominated Ruling Elders are presented by the Elder Search Committee. Candidates are selected by a process which the committee starts in March and finally concludes in September. Church members are encouraged to recommend those whom they consider to be mature Christians for the role of Ruling Elder. Of course, it is important to talk first with the candidate to obtain their agreement to serve. Watch for the announcement in early April that the Elder Search Committee is accepting recommendations for new Ruling Elders.
In summary, we all have a part in the decisions made at Sunset. The "will of the people" is reflected in multiple ways, including the annual nomination and election of Ruling Elders, participation in church programs, and church surveys like the one taken last year. For example, last year's church survey indicated that serving those in need is a high priority for Sunset and collectively we have more to give. As a result, plans are in process to "step up our game" in service to the needy.
A final comment on the Session decision making process. One of the principles that Session operates on is that all decisions are group decisions; we do not make decisions as individuals. Therefore if you ask us questions individually, we may say, "Session hasn't discussed that, I will have to get back to you." We appreciate your patience and prayers as we seek God's will for Sunset.
Q: Did we do anything to help Jason and his family financially in their transition?
A: In order to thank Jason and his family for their ministry and time among us, and to help with their transition, Session decided to provide a transition package for Jason. The transition package included upfront money to help with the move, and salary through the end of September in order to help with the different aspects of the transition. Due to the circumstances, we believe that this was the right thing to do.
We want to reiterate that Jason left in good standing with Session, who loves him and greatly appreciates both his ministry with us and the reasons behind his difficult decision to leave at this time. We also want to be clear that although Session sought guidance on what might be an appropriate transition package under the circumstances, we were under no compulsion from the presbytery or anyone else to provide one. This was a free-will consensus decision of Session regarding what we believed to be appropriate. It should be noted that this is consistent with the practice of other churches, and is consistent with Session practice over the past several years in which we have made efforts to help several ministers in their transition away from Sunset, with the manner determined on a case-by-case basis as appropriate.
Q: What is happening with the openings that we have with the departures of Ken Mulder, Barbara Feil and Jay McKenney?
A: Regarding Ken Mulder’s vacant position, we now have Janet Fraser covering those responsibilities with her strong leadership on the Outreach Ministry Team. As for Barbara Feil’s vacant position, we had a search committee working hard over this past summer with the purpose of hiring a “Group Life Pastor” but no viable candidates were found. We hope to fill that position after Jason’s replacement is selected, but in the meantime we are excited about rolling out a plan to equip and support our lay leaders in the near future. Regarding Jay McKenney’s vacant position as Worship Leader, we are grateful that Phil Church has stepped into that role and we have hired a temporary part-time admin in Laura Vander Giessen to work with the talented and dedicated Worship Team. Again, we are waiting to make any permanent decisions about the Worship Leader position until after our Pastor position is filled since they will be working closely together.
Q: Why is it taking so long to find a replacement for Jason Curtis?
A: Although it may seem like things aren’t moving very fast to find our new Pastor, remember that the average time frame for this process is 12-15 months. To give an example in our church’s history, after Pastor Ron left in late January 2011, it took us about 5 months before we hired Jay Barber to be our Interim Pastor in June 2011, then he was our Pastor for a little over 14 months before we hired Pastor Jason Curtis to be our Lead Pastor of Spiritual Formation in September of 2012. We are so grateful that Pastor Jay has offered his wisdom and leadership once again in the role of our Interim Pastor!
Your Session has been very active since January meeting together, as well as meeting with past Ruling Elders, to get input and discuss areas where God is directing Sunset Presbyterian to continue to go, while also looking and praying over areas that might need to be addressed and therefore could influence the role, and therefore the qualifications, of the person who God is calling to be our next Pastor In addition to praying for discernment through the Holy Spirit and reading scripture to guide us, we have formed an Advisory Council (made up of previous Ruling Elders) that is doing some research for us (see next question). That council, in addition to our friends in the EPC Presbytery of the Pacific, are providing support and wise counsel during this process.
Once the documentation is set for the pastor qualifications (through previous/current Elder input and possibly professional search consultants) a Pastor Search Committee will be chosen. This committee will be responsible for interviewing, vetting and praying for all the applicants that respond to our job opening. Currently, because we want to wait until our research is thorough and our qualifications sound, we are looking at forming this committee in the summer of 2017.
Individuals selected for the Search Committee will be church members who are deeply involved in ministry here at Sunset Pres and represent a diverse section of our congregation. They will most likely be interacting with the new Pastor in their current leadership roles and we assure you these people will be chosen with the utmost care and prayer. The final nominees will be presented at a Congregational Meeting where there will be a vote to confirm their positions.
Once the Search Committee reaches a decision, a finalist will be invited to come and preach to the congregation. After that, there will be a congregational meeting and a vote will be taken to see if the congregation affirms with the finalist the Search Committee has selected.
We ask for your patience in this process so we can truly seek God’s will and make sure our framework is set so as not to rush ahead just to fill our opening as it was, but to take the time to look ahead, as well as behind, and hire the type of pastor God wants for Sunset to move into the future. All of this takes time, thought, questioning, and a lot of prayer. Your Session is thankful for your encouraging words and prayers that have been received so far. We humbly ask that you keep praying for us as we move forward in this process for God’s wisdom to shine through so we have clarity in our decisions and the courage to go, together, where He is leading Sunset Presbyterian Church in this process.
Q: Has the Session evaluated the leadership model used the past few years? Have they considered returning to a senior pastor with an operations pastor, in other words a single leader responsible to Session? Hopefully, the Session has had such a discussion.
A: On Sunday, February 12th, Session invited prior Ruling Elders for a time of questions, conversation and prayer. We desire to seek their wisdom, experience and partner together in Sunset's future.
As a result of this time, a Pastoral Model Advisory Team has been created. It is an advisory body consisting of 13 Elders: Dennis Kviz, Jim Blanchard, Jim Eney, Jim Walcutt, Jim Zook, John Franklin, John Ristow, Julie Sherrill, Kent Richards, Larry Brisbee, Patsy Steinfeld, Scott Griffith and Tom Soderling. The final decision on what changes will be made, if any, to the current co-pastor model will lie within the Session after it has had time to meet with the Team and review its findings.
The Session has decided that a thorough review of the co-pastor model currently employed at Sunset Presbyterian Church is a prudent exercise for many reasons, not the least of which it has been six years since the co-pastor model was introduced to Session. Its merits should be carefully and systematically evaluated.
The Session desires this analysis to be thorough, objective, prayerful and expedited in a timely manner. This will benefit Sunset as we move forward in a pastoral search.
Q: Did we consult with the EPC regarding securing an Interim Pastor and are we using the EPC in the search for a Permanent Pastor?
A: Regarding an interim pastor, the EPC generously offered their help in finding an Interim Pastor, and identified some potential candidates for us. After prayerful consideration, Session decided that due to a combination of reasons, it would be best to ask Dr. Jay Barber to serve again as our Interim Pastor. The primary reason is that Dr. Jay brings a wealth of experience from serving in interim pastor roles, including for Sunset and two other large congregations. He is also already very familiar with Sunset. The EPC fully agrees with our reasoning, and supports our decision.
There are two aspects regarding engaging the EPC in our search for a new “permanent” pastor. First, we will publicize the position within the EPC, as we did during the previous search. Since the EPC is still a somewhat small denomination with relatively few large churches, the “pool” of potential candidates within the EPC is rather small. However, due to the combination of the EPC’s commitment to the authority of the Bible and its traditional governance structure, it has become very attractive to many pastors currently serving in other denominations or non-denominational churches. Consequently, the EPC frequently ordains pastors like Jason Curtis who are coming in from other denominations. In either case, the second aspect of our engagement with the EPC will be working with their Ministerial Committee. The Ministerial Committee will interview our final candidate(s) to provide their feedback to us, including whether there would be any issues with ordaining the candidate as an EPC pastor. After the congregation votes to approve calling the new pastor, the Ministerial Committee will continue to work with the new pastor (taking the pastor “under care”) to prepare them for full ordination and installation.
Q: What are the plans for preaching in the interim?
A: As you have seen over the past 8 weeks or so, we are using a rotation of speakers. Pastor Mike and Pastor Jay will each preach once per month, and we will bring in an outside guest once per month (such as Scott Farmer last week). Barbara Feil and John Franklin have graciously agreed to fill in as needed, and we will occasionally use other staff and gifted and trained teachers in our congregation, as you saw this past month. We will continue to follow a sermon series, and we have plans made through the fall, but our guest speakers will sometimes have their own sermon prepared.
We realize this format is different for Sunset, as we are accustomed to a primary teaching pastor, but many churches utilize this type of teaching on a regular basis as a way to reach a diverse congregation. We feel that our preaching these past several weeks has been top notch, and we anticipate more of the same going forward. We know that by coming every week you will receive excellent teaching.
Q: What can we do to help support staff and leadership during this time?
A: First, please be praying for our church. Pray for Session, for our staff, for the Pastoral Model Advisory Team, for our ministry leaders, for visitors and long-time members alike, for unity of spirit in our body. Join us as we seek God’s will for Sunset for now and into the future.
Encourage those who lead you in ministry. Notes and cards and positive emails mean a lot during times of transition. Let them know how much you appreciate them! Our office staff works hard to keep our programs running smoothly, reach out to them with an unexpected treat.
Be involved in the life of Sunset. Use this time to become more connected in the lifeblood of our church. Volunteer in an area that interests you. Join a “Serve” or “Experience” group. Stick around after the service for coffee and meet someone new. Introduce yourself to the people sitting in your section. Let’s use this time to come TOGETHER!