Pastoral Transition

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A Path Forward


During the January 31, 2021 Holy Cross Annual Meeting Pastor Bob informed the congregation of his intentions to transition from his current role as full-time senior pastor to a part-time pastoral role. The Church Council supports this decision and will work with Pastor Bob to ensure an effective and efficient transition.


Staff Support has been working collaboratively with Pastor Bob to outline the process and all associated aspects of the transition. This process has been named “A Path Forward.”


Many factors are being taken into account to ensure the transition supports the church’s continued ability to expand the strengths of current ministry opportunities, promote new and enhanced technology, and safeguard the financial stability of the church.


The document “A Path Forward: Pastoral Transition Plan” provides a timeline with significant milestones.


The estimated timeline for the process will be 2 – 3 years. Specific dates will be assigned to each milestone throughout the process.


The next step in the process is to seek feedback and input from the congregation related to the process and to assess our culture and values as a congregation to help ensure a good fit with future leadership. There are 4 ways the congregation can provide feedback and input.


1) A Path Forward Focus Groups were facilitated in February & early March.

2) A survey: This assessment tool was available to complete in early March.

3) A Path Forward Comment/Suggestion Box: This Comment/Suggestion Box is a virtual method to share your ongoing ideas and/or concerns throughout the process. Please access the Comment/Suggestions here: A Path Forward Comment/Suggestion Box.

4) A Path Forward Personal Phone Call: You may contact the church office and request that a representative from the Church Council contact you directly to discuss this process and respond to any questions you may have. The Church office telephone number is: (847) 367-4060.


A Path Forward Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) has been created to provide additional context and provide answers to the many questions congregational members may have. Please access the FAQs here: A Path Forward Frequently Asked Questions

A Path Forward Update: July 2021

We are identifying candidates and starting initial conversations with them. The call committee has crafted interview questions and planned different stages of the interview process. Should you have questions about the call process, please feel welcome to speak to one of the call committee members.

A Path Forward Update: June 2021

The call committee has been busy finalizing all the documentation needed to begin the interview process with potential candidates. The members of the call committee have reviewed all of the previous work done by the staff support team and the church council. The Bishop’s office of the Metro Chicago Synod ELCA is involved with the documentation process and a meeting with Rev. Kyle Severson, Associate to the Bishop is scheduled in June. During June we have two scheduled meetings on June 2 and 17. As we move forward in the interview process we will begin to identify candidates. Due to the privacy issues associated with this portion of the call process we will not be sharing any information about specifics until we are able to present a candidate to the congregation.


See the outline of the steps in the call process document.


Questions may be directed to Jen Christensen (, Chair of the Call Committee or Harold Sargent (, Congregational President.


A Path Forward Update: April/May 2021

As promised, we offer the following summary of what has happened thus far and next steps:

  • 10 focus groups conducted in February and March with 49 participants total


  • Congregational assessment tool (CAT) completed by 209 members during March


  • CAT results reviewed by Church Council and Staff Support in early April with Holy Cow consulting


  • Congregational profile and pastoral position description in progress during April


  • Pastoral Call Committee approved by Church Council on April 15: Jenifer Christensen (chair), Amy Becker-Perez, Carol Dikelsky, Nicole Drake, Mark Fedyk, Dave Kenney, David Klein, Matthew Sargent, Phil Kirschbaum (non-voting), and Pastor Bob (non-voting)



  • Next steps: Submit congregational profile including pastoral job description to the Bishop’s office of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod (MCS), continue to refine our congregational profile based upon focus group and CAT results, and work with the Bishop’s office in pursuing all avenues for identifying candidates.





Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Is Pastor Bob leaving Holy Cross soon?

No. At the beginning of 2020, Pastor Bob informed Staff Support that he would like to begin the process of outlining his transition from full-time to part-time pastoral ministry and eventual retirement. After researching some different possibilities, Staff Support determined Pastor Bob’s continued involvement with Holy Cross through an intentional transition strategy was needed to assure our ministry’s continued stability and positive momentum.


What is Staff Support?

Staff Support is a team of Holy Cross members, some of whom are also council members, with knowledge and expertise in organizational development, human resources, and corporate leadership. Staff Support works collaboratively with Pastor Bob to aid the Holy Cross staff processes, including but not limited to recruiting, hiring, and administering employee benefits. The members of Staff Support are:

  • Eric Christensen

  • Jennifer Christensen

  • Andy Eidson (council member)

  • Mark Fedyk

  • Katie Ormson

  • Sonny Randall (council member)

  • Mark Remissong

  • Harold Sargent (council member)


What role does the Associate Pastor’s position have during this transition period?
At this particular juncture, the priority will not be on filling this position immediately. Instead, our energy will be on identifying and calling a new full-time co-pastor who will transition into the Senior Pastor position as outlined in this transition plan. Input from congregational members through the focus group opportunities and the online congregational assessment tool will be captured and influential in developing future staffing models that will best serve the needs of Holy Cross’ ministry as it is envisioned for the future.

Holy Cross has benefited from five (5) different associate pastors over the past 25 years. Each one has brought talents and passions that have enabled Holy Cross to be relevant and significant in our ministries. It is a natural development for these individuals to be invested in Holy Cross for a period of time and then be in a position to respond to future opportunities to serve the larger church. Holy Cross has proven to be a wonderful context for pastors to continue their pastoral identity formation and hone the craft of being a parish pastor. We celebrate with them and continue to enjoy a relationship as they serve the larger church and other congregations.

As we live into this transition plan, consideration of the distribution of responsibilities will be met through full and part-time lay and ordained individuals. Once the co-pastor phase is fully implemented, the process of calling an additional ordained individual will begin.

How will the proposed transition process work?

Please refer to the Pastoral Transition Plan for a visual “high level” overview. In addition to the items shown, specific tasks, goals, and communications are necessary to reach our milestones. Notice we start with an intentional effort to assess our congregational culture and values to ensure a good fit between our future leaders and us.


What is the rationale for the process?

The continued stability of the ministry to and by the members of Holy Cross is the principal consideration. Staff Support members researched and met with other pastors and congregational leaders who have completed similar transitions, identifying best practices to guide this process.


Why are we moving forward with the transition now … during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic impacted how we provide worship and ministry, it did not stop us. Our church’s remarkable and faithful work continues, and as a result, we remain focused on our path forward.


Why are there few specific dates to this transition?

Prematurely establishing specific dates could hinder identifying and calling the best candidate for the Senior Pastor and other lay-ministry staff positions. Staff Support has outlined an approach with key milestones (see the attached Pastoral Transition Plan). Pastor Bob has agreed to remain fully engaged in his current full-time role until the new Pastor swaps places with him and takes over as Senior Pastor.


Who is going to lead this process?

Sonny Randall, who served as council president from 2019 – 2021, will lead Staff Support and the overall transition. Sonny has 20 years of experience in organizational development and succession planning.


What has happened thus far?

Staff Support has researched and outlined the process thus far, including:

  • Researching transition options and best practices

  • Outlining a plan to ensure ongoing communication, engagement, and feedback

  • Creating a congregational profile  

  • Identifying lay ministry staffing positions

  • Engaging the Church Council and ensuring the stability of current ministries


What is the role of the Bishop’s office of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod (MCS) in a pastoral transition?

Historically, the Bishop’s office of the MCS has been involved in all of Holy Cross’ pastoral transitions per the polity of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This pastoral transition will be no different. We will work collegially with Bishop Curry’s office as we navigate the procedural steps involved in the calling of a pastor to serve Holy Cross.


Is the new Pastor going to be a man or a woman?

Gender, race, age, sexual orientation, in addition to any other protected classes, will not be considered or predetermined in the identification of candidates for the eventual call of the next Senior Pastor. The focus will be on identifying candidates who have a proven track record of growing congregations while reinforcing our culture and values.


What is a co-pastorate?

A “co-pastorate” is when two or more pastors exist together with each other at the same time within the same congregation. Each has clearly defined authority and roles, such as when Holy Cross has had both a Senior Pastor and an Associate Pastor. 


How will this co-pastorate work? Who is going to do what?

Both Pastor Bob and our new Pastor will be engaged in worship leadership and pastoral acts (i.e., weddings, baptisms, hospital visitation, etc.) Our research suggests a transition model where Pastor Bob would maintain his role as Senior Pastor with all the usual responsibilities. The new Pastor could then focus on building relationships with people in the congregation and learning our culture and values. At a predetermined time (6-9 months after the new Pastor starts), Pastor Bob would step down as Senior Pastor, and the incoming Pastor would assume the role of senior. Pastor Bob would then begin a well-earned sabbatical and return to a part-time pastoral position after that.


What will we do with all the information we collect from the focus groups and the engagement assessment?

The focus groups and assessment will help clarify our congregational culture and values, leading to a better fit between our future leaders and us. Staff Support will compile the information and share results with the congregation for additional feedback and input.


How are you going to keep the congregation informed and up to date?

Watch for regular communications and updates, not only with results from the Focus Group meetings and the Congregational Engagement Assessment but with progress reports throughout the whole process.


Is Pastor Bob still going to perform marriages, baptisms, funerals, and other pastor acts once he transitions to part-time ministry?

Yes. However, Pastor Bob and the new Senior Pastor need to work through these kinds of questions together to complement the new Pastor’s leadership of Holy Cross.


Is there going to be a Call Committee?

Maybe. Traditionally a Call Committee would be solely responsible for managing the pastoral call process. This particular transition process will require input from diverse groups within the congregation. Once we compile feedback from the Focus Groups and Engagement Assessment, we will expand the size and scope of the group (i.e., traditionally a Call Committee) to be representative of the diversity of the congregation (i.e., ethnicity, gender, age, length of membership, ministry areas).


How is this transition going to affect our current culture? 

Holy Cross' unique and extraordinary culture is what draws and keeps us all here. We intentionally designed the entire transition process, first and foremost, to protect, preserve and build on those things we all value and are essential to why we stay here. The Focus Groups and Congregational Engagement Assessment tool will help us articulate the underlying beliefs, assumptions, values, and ways of interacting that make Holy Cross what it is. We will do everything we can to make sure the candidate we identify and select knows, understands, and is comfortable with Holy Cross' unique culture. We also recognize that it is essential for the new Pastor to have experience working in a similar culture to Holy Cross'. 


How does this impact the existing staff?  

The addition of a new Pastor will not have any employment impact upon the current staff (i.e., no-one will be replaced or asked to leave). However, new leadership often influences the existing team. Staff Support will work closely with the new Senior Pastor to ensure a smooth and effective transition.


How is Steve Oelschlager’s expanded role as Director of Operational Ministries impacted?

Holy Cross leadership envisioned Steve’s role to transfer much of the administrative responsibility from the Pastors to full-time lay leadership. This shift in duties is ongoing and will continue through the pastoral transition ahead of us. Steve’s role will allow the pastors to remain primarily focused on supporting the church’s worship and faith formation ministries.


Will Holy Cross’ ministry budget be able to fund the other ministry staff positions? 

Yes. The 2021 budget includes all considerations related to hiring a second full-time pastor and part-time lay ministry positions.


What are the housing options for future pastoral staff?

This particular matter will depend on the individual situation that possible candidates may have. We are blessed with different options ranging from the use of the parsonage to providing a housing allowance that would allow a pastor to consider the purchase of their private home. Pastor Bob is currently covered under this latter option. We now have a church staff member who will be residing in the parsonage as part of their compensation, and this allows the congregation to retain the current status of the home being removed from the property tax rolls.


A few other miscellaneous (but yet crucial questions):


Do we let the new Pastor ride a motorcycle, like Pastor Bob?

Yes! In fact, we hope the new Pastor brings a diversity of experiences that have impacted their ministry and will shape our congregation.


Should we panic?

No. Holy Cross has “grown through” many transitions in the past, and we will “grow through” this transition as well. As people of faith, our reliance on prayer and trust in God continue to be essential.


Do we have to let Pastor Bob retire?

Yes! We may not like it, but Pastor Bob’s wife (Nancy) would like to have her husband back so they can enjoy retirement together.


What do you think God thinks?

We have been prayerful and continue to make decisions that align with our Christian faith and values. We ask that the entire congregation elevate this process to God in prayer.


You may contact any member of Staff Support, Steve Oelschlager ( or Pastor Bob ( directly if you have any questions.

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