Status of Senior Pastor Search and Discovery  |  January 2023

It was a year ago now that Pastor Brian gave us a 16 month heads up on his retirement! Since then the Search and Discovery Team has been working through our 6 step process. We have seen God actively guiding all along and are excited for the next steps He will lead us through!

Currently NL Moore and Associates is “Collecting” and “Discerning” along with us. We are grateful for their partnership. The Godly wisdom and expertise they bring is so valuable! They have screened about 30 interested applicants and have additionally reached out to around 300 contacts to identify candidates who might match our profile and needs. By the end of March, God willing, they anticipate bringing a panel of 3-5 recommended names to the Search and Discovery Team to consider. At that point our team will begin an intensive interview season which we expect to culminate in bringing one candidate in for our Woodlands family to meet!

These are the most common questions we have been asked recently:

Q: Do we know who our next pastor will be yet? 

A: No

Q: Do we have people interested in this position? 

A: Yes. New people are reaching out to us and/or NL Moore consistently!

Q: What’s our team working on right now? 

A: Preparing interview questions and schedules to step in for our role in the Discerning stage.

Q: Is this taking longer than we thought it would? 

A: No. We initially anticipated 12-18 months and have been told that in the current market it’s a little longer than that.

Q: What if we don’t have someone new before Brian retires? 

A: No worries. Initially we thought this could go three ways: 1. Overlap between Brian and Next Pastor. 2. Simultaneous transition of Brian’s retirement and Next Pastor’s arrival OR 3. A break between Brian’s retirement and Next Pastor’s arrival. There were pros and cons of each scenario. We’ve loosely held our expectations and earnestly invited God to lead in His best timing. It’s looking like it will be #3 which we believe will be God’s best for us, since that’s what He’s doing! Our other staff will lead and preach during the space between Brian’s retirement and Next Pastor’s arrival.

Q: What should we be praying for? 

A: 1. Our Next Pastor – for God to be preparing him to lead us! 2. For Pastor Brian and Kathy – for God to be preparing them for their next season. 3. For our Congregation – for God to be preparing us for our next season 4. For Jill, Tim and Nancy as they “Collect” and “Discern” as they interact with potential applicants. 5. For all potential applicants – that God would use their interactions with NL Moore and Woodlands to confirm their callings and ministry assignments in God’s worldwide Church!

Thank you for your continued prayer for this process! If you have further questions, please feel free to contact us at wspsdteam@gmail.com.

What IS THE SEARCH & DISCOVERY PROCESS?

How Can I be involved?

Prayer is a powerful way to be involved while NL Moore and Associates is collecting and discerning candidates for Woodlands.  There is a prayer team that receives prayer requests from the Senior Pastor Search and Discovery team to give guidance on how to pray during this process.  There are also quarterly Evenings of Prayer that are focused on remembering God’s provision during the history of our church and praying intentionally for the search and discovery of our next Senior Pastor.

We invite you to the next Evening of Prayer, February 5th, 6:30-8 PM in the Chapel.

We also encourage you to join the Search and Discovery Prayer Team to receive specific updates and requests for how to be praying.

In order to vote on the final candidate, you must be a member of Woodlands Church. We encourage you to take our next membership class, Join Woodlands.  Join Woodlands is a two session class that will help you understand who we are, what we do, and why we do it as well as give you next steps to join the life, mission, ministry teams, and family of Woodlands.  After you have attended Join Woodlands you can choose to apply for membership.  Once you have submitted an application we will contact you for a membership interview.

There are two Join Woodlands classes coming up:

January 23rd and 26th

March 6th and 9th

*If you have previously taken the Essentials class you can apply by completing an application and dropping it off in the main office.

Meet our team!

Proverbs 25:2 says “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.” God already knows who our next Senior Pastor is but that matter is concealed to us at this point. It is our honor to search and discover who God has called to shepherd and lead us in the next phase of life at Woodlands.

Who is on the team?

The Search and Discovery team is made up of:

  • Angie Nyquist
  • Cindy Groshek
  • Dan Weltzin
  • David Hansen
  • Debbie Smith
  • Don Smith
  • Emily Bouche
  • Heath Erickson
  • Kallie Kuhr
  • Sara Williams
  • Terry Schott

    Senior Pastor Search and

    Discovery Process FAQ

    Why are we using an outside firm?

    We believe it is wise to seek Godly counsel!

    After lots of prayer and listening – listening to members of the congregation, the staff, the district, applicants, experts in placement, and other churches – we have enlisted Nancy Moore and Associates out of St. Paul to give input to the Woodlands Senior Pastor Search and Discovery Team.  Over the summer of 2022, God clearly led the Search team along with the Elders to this step! The questions and comments that informed this decision were along the lines of “Isn’t the transition after a long-term beloved pastor hard?” and “How can we best navigate this transition, both now and later, for the sake of our church and our next pastor?”

    We are so grateful that an experienced resource like Nancy and her team can speak into our specific situation. They a mid-western, Evangelical Free Church knowledgeable, Church-loving group of experts who have done this for 15 years. Their approach is consistent with the process and values we have already defined for our Search and Discovery. But beyond that, they know answers to questions that we don’t even know to ask. They have experience that we are excited to benefit from!

    We want you to clearly hear these important things:

    • We feel very confident God has led us to this step and to Nancy Moore and Associates. This is not a divergent path or a Plan B. It’s a clear next step based on where we have been so far. Our process has led us to this point.
    • Engaging Nancy Moore has nothing to do with the number of or quality of applicants we have received so far (or anticipate we could have in the future). For their sake (present and future applicants) this is a very healthy next step.
    • We are not taking this step in reaction to what’s happened in the last few weeks in our church. We were already on this path. But we do believe God has ordained the timing and it seems like an even better idea now.
    • We believe this is the best step for the long-term health of our church and the best possible transition. This seems best for our congregation and for our next Senior Pastor, and our Search and Discovery Team is 100% in support!
    What will the consultant firm do?

    They will walk along-side the Woodlands Senior Pastor Search and Discovery team, advising them and our Elder Board, by:

    • Gathering data through an on-line Church-wide assessment
    • Meeting in person with pastors, staff, elders, the team, and congregants to understand our culture and situation.
    • Presenting results of their findings to the Search and Discovery team along with the Elders and Staff.
    • Advising about the wisest steps and timing in our succession process, transitioning from a long-term pastor to our next pastor.
    • Creating a profile to match potential candidates against, helping to determine their fit with our values, culture, direction and needs.
    • Accessing their extensive connections and recommending to us potential candidates that match our profile.
    • Advising and walking through the process with us as we navigate the actual transition.
    How will we find our next Senior Pastor?

    We will do a national search for candidates. The Elders have appointed a Search and Discovery Team to lead this process. Proverbs 25:2 is the theme verse for this team: “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.” God already knows who our next Senior Pastor is.  But that matter is concealed to us at this point. It is our glory to search and discover who God has called to shepherd and lead us in the next phase of life at Woodlands.

    We will find potential candidates by posting our position opening on websites that link candidates with churches.  The position and how to apply is described on (JOIN OUR TEAM).  Please pass that link along to qualified candidates that you know!

    This seems like a big deal! Shouldn’t we be praying?!

    Yes! Tina Nelson and Gene Swanstrom are leading a prayer effort devoted specifically to this process.

    • Members of the Search and Discovery Team have partners on the Core Prayer Team praying specifically for them.
    • In addition, quarterly Concerts of Prayers (COP) will encourage the congregation to pray together. The next COP will be February 5th at 6:30 pm.
    • Regular requests/prompts for everyone will be in the electronic newsletter as well as in “Woodlands in the Word and Prayer” on the app. You can subscribe to the newsletter via text by sending UPDATES to 888-225-7675 or subscribe via e-mail here.
    How do I know what to pray for?

    Pray for these 5 things:

    1 – The Search and Discovery Team and the process.  Pray for wisdom and unity.

    2 – The applicants.  For each applicant, pray that God would use their interactions with our team to guide them on their journey.

    3 – Our next Senior Pastor.  Pray for him and his family as God stirs their hearts to come to us.  Pray for all they will leave behind, for their transition to us and for their fruitful ministry with us.

    4 – Our congregation.  Pray that we would be a field ripe for the harvest in this next season of ministry.  Pray that individuals, families and ministries would be in a healthy place to embrace this change and newness.  Pray that people would engage with, pray for and embrace God’s plan for our future.

    5 – Pastor Brian and Kathy.  Pray for Pastor Brian and Kathy as they transition out of a long and fruitful ministry here. Pray they would feel celebrated and affirmed.  Pray they would adjust well to this big change!

     

    The Senior Pastor Search and Discovery Prayer Team gets new, more specific requests about every other week.  To sign up for this team text PT to 888-225-7675.

    Why did we take two surveys?

    Last spring, the Search and Discovery Team asked congregants to take a survey. We learned what was most important to people and also learned what people were concerned about. The results of that survey helped inform the step toward the second survey. We listened to your urging to seek counsel and advice. We heard you ask “how can we navigate this in the best possible way?” After investigating multiple groups that are experts in helping churches through the transition process, we have solicited Nancy Moore and Associates out of St. Paul, MN to help us. They conducted an extensive assessment in September of 2022. They are using this data, along with other input they collect, to advise us. We are grateful for God’s clear leading and his provision of these wise counselors!

    How do I stay updated on the progress of the Search and Discovery Team?

    It is our intention to keep you all updated on the process as we go through it. Look for announcements and information in the weekly electronic newsletter.

    You can subscribe to the newsletter via text by sending the word UPDATES  to 888-225-7675 or subscribe via e-mail here.

    Who is on the Senior Pastor Search and Discovery Team?

    The Search and Discovery team is made up of:

    • Angie Nyquist
    • Cindy Groshek
    • Dan Weltzin
    • David Hansen
    • Debbie Smith
    • Don Smith
    • Emily Bouche
    • Heath Erickson
    • Kallie Kuhr
    • Sara Williams
    • Terry Schott
    What will the Senior Pastor Search and Discovery team do?

    This team will work through the defined process in 6 stages:

    Initiating: Establishing a Search and Discovery Team as Pastor Brian announces a May 2023 retirement.

    Planning: Preparing for future stages by finalizing church and position profiles, building a process plan and establishing sub-teams to work out details.

    Collecting: Gathering congregational thoughts as well as applications from online postings and personal referrals.

    Discerning: Combining our process and God’s wisdom as we review applications and interact with candidates, seeking to understand God’s leading about who He has called to be our next Senior Pastor.

    Recommending: Recommending the final candidate to the Elders who will initiate a vote by church members.

    Transitioning: Navigating change for our church and new pastor as we continue forward in God’s plan for Woodlands Church.

    (Prayer. Throughout all 6 stages, prayer will be foundational.  Praying as individuals, small groups and larger groups for this process and the search team, our church, potential candidates, our new Senior Pastor and his family, and for Pastor Brian and Kathy.)

    WHAT ARE THE GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR THE SEARCH AND DISCOVERY TEAM?
    WHERE IN THE BIBLE DOES IT TALK ABOUT WHAT A PASTOR SHOULD BE LIKE?
    • 1 Timothy 3:1-13
    • Titus 1:5-9
    • 1 Peter 5:1-3
    • Mark 10:42-45
    • Acts 20:17-35
    • I Tim 4:11-16
    • II Tim 4:1-5
    • Ezekiel 34:1-16

    Take some time to read and study these passages to know what to expect and look for in biblical leaders.

     

    Who decides who the next Senior Pastor will be?

    The BIG answer is God! The logistical answer is that at Woodlands Church, the congregation votes to call a candidate. Our constitution and by-laws states “The Senior Pastor shall be called by the Church upon recommendation of the Elder Board and a 75% affirmative written ballot of those members present at a properly noticed business meeting.” 

    Prior to a vote, the candidate will visit Woodlands so the members will have a chance to get to know him and hear him preach. 

    WILL OUR NEXT SENIOR PASTOR BE APPOINTED BY OUR DENOMINATION?

    No. Woodlands is part of the Evangelical Free Church of America. Each church operates independently and chooses its own leaders.

    What role do the Elders play in this process?

    The Elders have appointed two of their members, Don Smith and Dan Weltzin to be a part of a Search and Discovery Team. Don and Dan will regularly report progress of the team to the Elders. The Elders will approve the position description and profile documents before they are posted. The Search and Discovery team will bring a recommended candidate to the Elders who will give the okay for the candidate to come meet the church. After that, the Elders will bring the name of one candidate to the Congregation for a vote.

    What did we find out from the congregational survey?

    We found out there is A LOT OF UNITY in what is most important.

    We want a Pastor who is faithful to the Word of God. We want a Pastor who is Gospel-focused. We want Pastor who is humble and of strong character. We want a Pastor who is a strong preacher with applicable expository sermons. We want a Pastor who is a steady leader. We want a Pastor with a passion for the mission of the local church. We want our church to remain true to who we are, regardless of who our lead pastor is.

    We found out there is SOME DIVERSITY in opinions like:

    Some people are excited for a change and to see what new thing God will do. Some people are afraid of this change and will miss the way it is now.

    Some people want certain issues discussed more. Some people do not.

    Some people feel leadership is the most important gift. Some people feel preaching is most important.

    We also found out A LOT OF YOU ARE PRAYING for this process and for our next Pastor.

    Thank you for filling out these surveys. They are very helpful in informing how the Search and Discovery team thinks and interacts with applicants.

    Will church members vote on a new pastor?

    Yes. The Elders will bring the name of one candidate to the members for a vote. Our constitution and by-laws states “The Senior Pastor shall be called by the Church upon recommendation of the Elder Board and a 75% affirmative written ballot of those members present at a properly noticed business meeting.” 

    If the congregation does not approve that candidate, we will prayerfully begin the process again. There will not be a vote off among more than one candidate at a time.   

    Is there someone already picked to be the next Senior Pastor from among our current Pastors?

    No. Although our current staff team is comprised of extremely talented, dedicated, called and gifted people, none of them have been automatically chosen for this position. 

    Wouldn’t it be easier to just “promote” one of the other pastors to Senior Pastor?

    We believe God has called a specific man to be our next Senior Pastor. It is our desire to “discover” him through this process. While our current staff team is comprised of extremely talented, dedicated, called and gifted people, no one will just be promoted. We have felt led that we need to do a national search for this role, believing that through the process we will discover who God has appointed.

    When will the new person start?

    Initially we thought this could go any of three ways: 1. Overlap between Brian and Next Pastor. 2. Simultaneous transition of Brian’s retirement and Next Pastor’s arrival OR 3. A break between Brian’s retirement and Next Pastor’s arrival. There were pros and cons of each scenario. We’ve loosely held our expectations and earnestly invited God to lead in His best timing. It’s looking like it will be #3 which we believe will be God’s best for us, since that’s what He’s doing. Our other staff will lead and preach during the space between Brian’s retirement and Next Pastor’s arrival.

    What will happen with the current pastoral staff?

    (You might be thinking: Sometimes when a new CEO comes into a company, they clean house and start with a new leadership team.  Will that happen here when we have a new leader?) 

    There is no intention or expectation of making any other changes to the pastoral team when there is a new Senior Pastor.

    Why are we searching for our Next Senior Pastor?

    On May 1, 2023 Pastor Brian will be retiring as our Senior Pastor.

    How old will our new pastor be?

    Our new pastor will be younger than Pastor Brian. That’s all we know for sure : )

    We are not looking for someone of a specific age. God has brought us people along the age spectrum to consider, and we believe our new pastor will be the one God has assigned to us and his age will be his age!

    But we have heard some different opinions on this.

    One train of thought says that Pastor Brian was in his thirties when he arrived, and it has been great to have him here for so long. Others emphasize that the new pastor must reach the next generation so it would be good to have someone young.

    Another train of thought says that we are a large and complex organization that would be better led by someone with more experience. Some people have said that it would take an extraordinary leader to step into our 30 staff, 1200 attendee organization without prior significant leadership experience.

    Both viewpoints are certainly valid and are being considered! The answer to the question remains, we don’t know who God is going to bring us or how old he will be!

    Is preaching the most important thing our new pastor will do?

    Preaching is what most people see our Senior Pastor do so many people would answer this question with a resounding yes!

    It is important that our new pastor preaches the truth of the Word of God and that our church body is fed and can grow from his teaching.

    The Senior Pastor is also the overall leader of our church, providing high level oversight to everything we do, making sure we are working toward our mission. He also provides vision and direction for the church as whole. He is the one who sets the tone for our church culture, who leads through hard times, and who wrestles with tough issues.

    So is preaching most important? Preaching is important. But so is leadership. And underneath both of those things, the true most important thing is his character, his devotion to God’s call on his life, his love for the Church, and his commitment to God’s Word.

    Why is Pastor Brian leaving?

    He is retiring. Pastor Brian will be 68 years old and will have been at Woodlands Church for 33 years when he retires. (As Pastor Brian said in his announcement, there is no other back story. This is just a normal part of life!)

    When was Pastor Brian’s retirement announced?

    Pastor Brian officially announced his retirement on Sunday, January 2, 2022 at the end of the service (there was only one service that morning).  However, he’s been talking about this for years as an upcoming event!

    What will Pastor Brian do between January 2022 and May 2023?

    Pastor Brian will continue as our Senior Pastor during this time! He will continue to lead, guide, shepherd, and teach along with the rest of the Woodlands Pastors and Staff.

    What will Pastor Brian do after he retires?

    In Pastor Brian’s words “We don’t know exactly, but this is our home.  This is our church family. We are not planning to go anywhere. I’d love to be a high-capacity volunteer at Woodlands, washing windows, mowing the lawn, and serving wherever I’m needed.”

    What is the specific timeline for NL Moore?

    In September 2022,  NL Moore and Associates conducted an extensive survey of our congregation. 681 adults completed the survey, giving it 99% (+-3) statistical confidence. The survey data gives us answers to three basic questions:

    Where are we starting from? What is our church currently like?

    Where do we want to go? What are top priorities to the people in our church and where should efforts be focused in the future?

    What kind of pastor can help us get from here to there? What are the important qualities, skills and passions our next pastor should have?

    In October 2022, Nancy and Tim from NL Moore were on-site at Woodlands for a weekend. They met with Pastor Brian, the Elders, the Search and Discovery Team, each member of our staff and with some members of the congregation. The notes they took during these interviews helped flesh out the details and stories behind the survey numbers and provided new information about our culture, current status, and our hopes and dreams. 

    In November 2022, Nancy and Tim wrote three documents to be used during the Search and Screen process that explained who we are and what we opportunities are on the horizon for our next pastor.

    On November 27, 2022 Nancy Moore shared about the assessment results during our Sunday morning services (watch here). We encourage you to watch the whole report! The high level summary is that, based on their extensive experience, they believe we are a healthy church with great potential for even more Kingdom impact. They believe we are ready to transition to our next season with our next leader. Through our answers, we identified our top 4 priorities as a church. The summary of those priorities is “internal strengthening to grow and meet needs in the community.” We also showed great unity around those priorities and around our theology. We show that we are not willing to compromise on our theology but that we are willing to be flexible with our programming. 

    November 28, 2022 was the official start of NL Moore’s work in searching for good-fit candidates and screening them against the criteria discovered in the Collecting phase.  This work will continue for about 90 days with an anticipated Candidate Presentation to the Search and Discovery team in March, 2023.

    What were the results of the Assessment by NL Moore?

    On November 27, 2022 Nancy Moore shared about the assessment results during our Sunday morning services (watch here). We encourage you to watch the whole report! The high level summary is that, based on their extensive experience, they believe we are a healthy church with great potential for even more Kingdom impact. They believe we are ready to transition to our next season with our next leader. Through our answers, we identified our top 4 priorities as a church. The summary of those priorities is “internal strengthening to grow and meet needs in the community.” We also showed great unity around those priorities and around our theology. We show that we are not willing to compromise on our theology but that we are willing to be flexible with our programming. 

    How do I contact the Search and Discovery Team?

    If you have questions or input, please contact the team at WSPSDTeam@gmail.com.

    Join the Prayer Team

    We have a team who is devoted to praying over the process of searching for and discovering who our next Senior Pastor will be and you are invited to join them! By signing up below you will receive prayer prompts to spur you on as you pray for this process.