Becoming Bridge Builders

Racial equity, anti-racism, and critical race theory are terms that are breaking us as a community. This podcast seeks to focus on these diverse issues. We will delve deeper into the subjects many are reluctant to debate. I don’t consistently agree with my guest, nor do they always see events from my Christian viewpoint. But here we create a safe space for discussion. You can’t understand if you merely have one side of history. The aim here is to get to the core of the issues. There are individuals who are hurting, and their issues are being disregarded or avoided. On this podcast, we analyze ways to build bridges over the streams of disharmony. The focus will be on practical solutions to complex issues. Only truth can build the bridge to wholeness. Hosted by B. Keith Haney, pastor and thought leader.


episode 9: Leading Your Church Through a Leadership Transition [transcript]

In today's episode, we are going to talk about leading your church through a pastoral leadership change.  Jim Collins (the author of Good to Great" said "You're going to die, retire, quit, or get fired. "You'll not pastor your church forever. Now, consider this, what will happen to your church after you are dead, retired, quit, or fired? The greatest hindrance to the ongoing success of an organization is the charismatic leader who founded it,” he continued."
Transition is an inescapable part of leadership, but how you manage the transition is what is the most important. Over my 27 years of ministry, I experienced three major leadership transitions. Today my guest is Pastor Mark Brandt. Administrative Pastor St. Lorenz Lutheran Church Frankenmuth, MI. He is retiring at the end of 2020 and he shares with us wisdom from his vast years of experience. 

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 2020-10-01  28m
00:03  Host Keith Haney
Welcome to this edition of the light breakthrough. I'm your host Keith Haney. it is conceivable the system and culture are crushing you in a unique constellation. Mr. raesha is what you're pursuing, you will find it here. And if you want to be more effective ministry, this podcast will encourage and equip you to go further and dream bigger and connect with more. The world is changing and our ministry methods, not our beliefs need to reboot and this may stretch you beyond your comfort zone and will never lose sight of who sits on the throne. So sit back, put on your seat belts and get ready for transformation. Jim Collins who wrote the book Good to Great once said, you're going to die, retire, quit or get fired and you will never pastor your church forever. Now consider this. Jim Collins asked what will happen to your church after your dad retired quitter fired and the greatest hindrance to the ongoing success of an organization is a charismatic leader who founded it, he continued transition is an inescapable part of leadership. But how you manage transition is the most important. Over my 27 years of ministry. I've experienced three major leadership transitions. So I'm excited My guest today Pastor Mark brown will talk to us about transition. So welcome, Mark.
01:21  Rev. Mark Brandt
Thank you. Glad to be here.
01:23  Unknown Speaker
So here's a little bit about Mark's background. Pastor Mark Brandt was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa On the sixth day of November, but he took a CEO He attended Longfellow Elementary School in Marion, Iowa, at St. Peter's Lutheran School in Columbus, Indiana. He graduated from Columbus High School in 1972. His first two years of college were at Concordia Lutheran junior college and at Arbor, where he earned an Associate Degree. His Bachelor of Arts degree was received from Concordia senior College in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In 76. He attended Concordia seminary St. Louis, graduating in 1980 with a master's degree in divinity as a brand took his first call to St. John's Lutheran Church in Bhima, Nebraska in 1980. He went on to serve Trinity Lutheran Church in Glendora and 83 and as served as St. Lorenz since 1990, becoming lead pastor in 1998. He's married to Karen a been blessed with five children and six grandchildren and he served outside the church at large in many ways, including being the zone pastoral advisor for those who laymen's lead, a delegated to Synod conventions as a circuit visitor circuit counselor, and a member of the board directors of the Michigan district LCMS. In June 20 22,009, he was elected to the first vice president of that same district, in a row He currently serves. And we are so thankful to have mark to join us on our podcast today. Thank you.
02:48  Rev. Mark Brandt
Again, I'm looking looking forward to our time together, Keith.
02:51  Host Keith Haney
So I want to kind of give all my guests kind of a nice softball question to start out with. So question is, what's the best advice anyone's ever given you?
03:02  Rev. Mark Brandt
A lot of people are giving me a lot of advice. But you know, one that one that sticks with me is is actually came second hand. And that was a number of years ago, when I was called to St. Lorenz. I was called as associate pastor, and the administrative pastor at the time, Bill Hoseman, used to quote his father quite a bit and why he thought it was important for me to hear this piece of advice, I'm not sure. But Forrest Bill's dad used to. He didn't have much patience for people who were self promoters. And so about such people, he would say, you know, if you have to tell him, it ain't true. So I've I've taken that to heart and tried to talk a little bit more about Jesus than I do myself anyway.
03:47  Host Keith Haney
That's always really good advice. Um, can you kind of tell us about you talked about the churches you've served? What is your ministry journey taught you in terms of being a pastor?
03:59  Unknown Speaker
Well, you know, you get a great foundation for ministry, at the seminary, and a year of victory is really indispensable in my estimation. And then, of course, just the years and years of experience, teach quite a few things. I've said more than once, that I learned to be a Christian for my mom, who was a wonderful Christian woman. I learned to be a churchman, actually from Bill Hoesman, who, when he left St. Lawrence went down to an arbor to serve as our district president. And I really learned a lot from him. But I would say I learned to be a pastor for my dad. And he also was the inspiration for my deciding to go into the ministry. And I watched him pretty, pretty carefully. And I learned a lot about what to do from him and probably a couple things what not to do as well.
04:49  Host Keith Haney
Good. So you serve a large church and our historic church and our church body. Get maybe as a as a word of advice to people who are either desire to serve others. large church or are serving one, what advice would you kind of, or insights you can give to them that would help them in that ministry.
05:08  Unknown Speaker
Frankly, I don't think you can beat a large congregation and define that, of course, however you want to whatever number you want to pick, but there's, there's just so many blessings started on the first two congregations I served were quite small, and I love both churches they were, they were great people great to me, and to my family, and smaller churches certainly have a lot going for them that larger churches don't so so every pastor kind of needs to find his niche, I think and, and individual members as well, because there's a lot of things you can do in a small church, that, that you can't do in a in a large church, but also vice versa. And, and I, I just love the variety of programming that can be possible. In a larger church, you can ordinarily anyway afford staff members who are able to specialize in different areas of ministry and music ministry, for instance, we have some outstanding professional musicians on our staff, we have a large school, which from which my children benefited greatly by being able to attend, and which really is kind of the heartbeat of our congregation the school is it helps to keep us young and helps to we baptize every year, several students from our school. And so it really does serve as a as a mission agency. And for that, we're very grateful. And I kind of saved the best for last in this connection, and that has to do with being able to serve with other pastors on a team that can present some challenges. And I'm well aware of congregations where pastors didn't get along all that well. And sometimes that became known, so forth. But our pastoral teams, and I've actually been a part of a number of different iterations of pastoral team, it's at St. Lorenz, in your 30 years. But we've always had wonderful pastors to work with and the current makeup of our team is, is no exception to that we are able to bounce a lot of ideas off each other, as you get to know each other and learn how to be very honest, transparent is a bit of a cliche, but it's still an important thing to think about, that we really make each other better as individuals. And as a pastoral team, I think we are much better than we could ever be alone.
Great. So you're about to go through a pastoral transition at St. Lorenz. So, kind of walk me through how you developed a plan for that transition, because in our church body is a little hard for those who don't know, because we don't go hire the next senior pastor, we have a call process where we get a list of names from district president, and we have to prayerfully consider those. So it's a little harder for us to, quote unquote, plan our successor. So how did how did your church go about developing that transition plan?
Well, it started I would say, a number of years ago, when it it occurred to me, as we were doing some other transitioning. And our pastoral team we had one of our pastors was retiring, and some other things were happening. And so we reorganized our team. And at the time, I just looked down the road at my own future and saw 2020 as the year when I would turn 66. The year that I would celebrate 40 years in the ministry, 30 years at St. Lorenz. And it was also is also our congregations hundred and 75th anniversary. So it just seemed like, yep, that's going to be the year. And when we were meeting with the congregation about the the transition or the changes in our pastoral team, I mentioned that. And so I kind of planted that seed then and then that was probably eight or nine years ago. And then several years ago, I started having kind of an internal debate with myself as to I don't talk to myself all that often. But it goes just as far as so what should my role be? i? Well, no, and I think most pastors know that the the the traditional way of doing that is that the pastor who's leaving his stays completely out of out of the process. He's not supposed to pick his own successor. And I know there's a lot of wisdom to that. I've seen it done other ways as well. And sometimes those ways have worked and sometimes they haven't. So I just was asking the question, and I shared it with a few others is, what should my role be? I'll tell you that I didn't do the best job of communicating that that I I scared some people actually who who thought that I wanted to pick my own successor and which was not the case just trying to figure out I love this congregation I want I want my successor to be special. cessful and so what, you know, what would that look like? And what should my role be, um, after a lot of conversation, then with others, I came to the conclusion here, at least, that following the, the customary approach really did make the most sense. And so I have not been a part of the call process for my successor, we do have a call, we have placed a call meaning our congregation has placed a call for administrative pastor to replace me he's still deliberating on that call at the time. But to get to that point, then after I kind of let my intentions be known, a number of years ago that 2020 looked like the year for me to retire, probably three or four years ago, I, I zeroed in on that more with our our lay leadership, and been talking about it with our pastoral team, of course, but zeroed in on it then with our leadership and said, I think that this would be a good time for our ministry counsel, to President of the congregation to appoint a succession planning Task Force, because this is, this is going to be a huge transition, and we need to do everything we can to make that as smooth as possible. I did suggest that one member of the of that taskforce should be bill Holzman who had retired from district president to move back to frankenmuth. I said, I think you ought to consider him but I'm not going to make any other suggestions. And so they did. They talked to bill and got him on board with the succession planning Task Force. I think he even chaired that. But that's been a while I didn't sit in on those meetings. So I can't remember that for sure. But then they they've got a good representative group. They did a lot of background work, organizing some things that I hadn't done, gotten around to doing the updated ministry, descriptions and those kinds of things. And then they report it to the ministry Council and said, we've considered and I said minister Council, so I saw the report that we can, that the the succession planning Task Force, considered three approaches to the to my replacement. One was to
just go intentional interim route, which, you know, oftentimes, after a long pastor it you have an unintentional interim. And so thank you, maybe we should do intentional interim, they decided that would not be the first option. And they also talked about just waiting until I retired, and then starting the call process, then they also decided that would not be the best option. And so what they suggested was establishing a call committee, and going through the process and trying to have somebody on board who would overlap for several months, was the goal with me so that when I stepped out of full time ministry at St. Lorenz on January 1, that somebody would be in the office and it already would be working. That's still the plan. We're peripherally seeking the answer from the man, we've called to be administrative pastor. And I've also told him that the day he arrives is the day he takes charge. And whatever that means, what what he asks me to do, if I can do it, I will. And, but, but he would be in charge immediately. And so I am praying that that works out. That's, that's what we're working on right now.
13:33  Host Keith Haney
That's a good plan. I've done a lot of things with call congregations. And I realized for the time that when, when you do pick your successor, you tend to pick someone just like yourself. Because I think you open
13:45  Rev. Mark Brandt
13:46  Host Keith Haney
we really like ourselves. So we thought well fit for our church. So someone just like me would be perfect. You mentioned as part of this transition plan that communication plays an important role. Can you just kind of say more, as you look back on that, and how important that is, especially with your leadership team and a church your size, but also with members of the congregation kind of clarifying this whole process for them? Because if you've been at 30 years, they probably haven't done this in a while. They call a senior pastor anyway. Correct? Yes. Yeah. So
14:19  Unknown Speaker
that's always a challenge, isn't it to know how best to communicate how often to communicate, it's very easy to, to both under and over, communicate. And I would prefer to err on the side of over communicating, although, sometimes I don't think to, to share one thing or another, but with our pastoral team, and we meet weekly, and for a while this was on our agenda pretty regularly just to, for me to get some feedback from them as to things I was thinking about and so forth. Once the call process started, I didn't have any information to share beyond what they already knew, because our congregational President met with them on occasion. And, and pretty much kept us all informed to the same level. I have, as I mentioned, tried to prepare people for the fact that I'm going to retire by, by starting a number of years ago. I know there's questions on that, too. Do you become a lame duck once you announce your date, and I mean, I haven't felt any of that. So, but over the last couple of years, when this process started in earnest, I have been communicating. Sometimes I've done it sometimes the report would go out from the succession planning taskforce or the call committee, just to try to keep the congregation informed as to where we were in the process, what kind of timeline there was for the process, and how that how that could all play out. Anyway, a big part of what I'm trying to communicate now is my expectations for what I'm going to be doing and really not doing after retirement, and that, that I need their help to, for those expectations to be met. My wife, and I love frankenmuth. We love St. Lawrence congregation. And we do plan to to stay, we have a wonderful home here. And I love worshipping at St. Lorenz, although sometimes that's online these days, of course, but so our intention, and our plan is to stay around. But for me to not be involved at all, in ministry, here. And especially when it comes to any kind of public acts, that I've I've tried to make it clear that it is the called pastor are pastors of a congregation who really have the privilege and the responsibility to do baptisms and weddings and funerals confirmations, and that when I retire, I will no longer be called a member of the pastoral team. I think it's especially important for the administrative pastor, for him, to somebody new who comes in to not have to think that either I'm looking over his shoulder, or I'm kind of hanging out in the background and, and secretly hoping that people will ask me to do one thing or another. I'm trying to tell them, I won't be your pastor. And I'm not going to be around all the time. I'm planning to travel some we are Karen and I. And so I'm really just trying to prepare them for that. I already had an individual who said, but but you would be willing to perform the wedding for my son, right? And I said, You know, I won't be your pastor, I can't do that. And what if it's, what if it doesn't happen? At St. Lawrence congregation I said, you know, I'm just, I'm not the pastor there anymore. And upon my retirement, and so no, that's not something that that I would be able to do. I'm honored to be asked and, and apologize. It's harder than I thought. It's gonna be hard to than I had really anticipated. You know, pastors hate to disappoint people. And so you never, you never want to get in the way of people who are serving in the office now. But I can seriously the temptation to say, Well, yeah, we've got this relationship. And we've served together in this way with, with lay leaders or whatever. And so yeah, maybe we should make an exception this time. I just don't think we can make exceptions. And
18:25  Host Keith Haney
that's really critical point. I remember thinking when I left my congregations, I needed to not have an opinion, because people would call and ask me my thoughts. I'm going, it's not appropriate for me to share it. Because I have a lot of opinions if you don't, because
18:40  Rev. Mark Brandt
we all Yeah.
18:42  Host Keith Haney
But you're right, we have to be careful not to even in with good intentions to infringe or infringe on the new pastures, goals and objectives and his ministry, find
18:53  Rev. Mark Brandt
out I've got a great I've got a great example of that Keith, for the administrative pastor before Pastor Hosemann. So this was john deterding. And this was many, many years ago. But after, after bill went down, Ann Arbor and I became the lead pastor here, I went out, john still lived in the area, too. So he's kind of my model for how this can be done successfully. And we were talking about a billion expansion. We've done a few of those. And I went to see john. And as we were talking, I just brought that up and said, You know, I? What do you think about this? He said, I think it's a big mistake. St. Lawrence has enough buildings to maintain. And he said, but you won't hear me say that anywhere else. And, and I knew that was true, otherwise, I'm sure it would have come back to me if he had been out there. voicing his opinion to others, but when I asked for his opinion, he shared it but he was not going to initiate that with me or with anybody else or share his opinion with anybody else and I i still appreciated that and I want my successor to be able to appreciate The same thing about me.
20:01  Host Keith Haney
That's that's great insightful. You mentioned one other thing, I think it's challenging in a transition like this is those connections you formed over 30 years. And so as a pastor who's now stepping down and having someone else come in, how do you maintain the balance of one and keep those relationships and also not infringing on the new guy who needs to form relationships?
20:25  Rev. Mark Brandt
I'm not exactly sure how that's going to work. One thing that that comes to mind is, I'm involved in our frankenmuth, Rotary Club, and have a lot of relationships there also with people outside of our congregation. And, and so there are things that that we do socially with people who aren't members here. With those who are members of our congregation. I don't anticipate, you know, famous last words, I guess, but I don't anticipate that being a huge struggle. We have some some good friendships with several people in the congregation that we have socialized with in one way or another, I think, I think that can continue. So to go to somebody's home for a drink, or two to visit them at their condo in Florida. I'm not giving that up. Or those kinds of things. I think that's okay. I would, I guess it depends on what kind of relationship I have with my successor. But I would I would relish the opportunity to bounce some of those things off of him and say, you know, tell me what what you're seeing here? if, if, if I'm doing this with somebody in the congregation, I think that is also an advantage of a large congregation is that things aren't noticed in the same way or, or nearly as much, I think, and so I'm gonna have to feel my way somewhat on that, though.
21:56  Host Keith Haney
Yeah. So here's the question. We didn't i didn't send you ahead of time. But this one is kind of on my mind. As you look at the church, where it stands right now. Give me one hopeful thing you see for the church going forward and one concern for the church at large as we go forward in the next general in this next century.
22:15  Rev. Mark Brandt
So when you say the church, you don't mean St. Lawrence church, you know, just the church.
22:19  Host Keith Haney
kind of experience a lot because you have a lot of experience that just as as pastor there, but as you know, first vice president, you kind of see the global church, what are what are one thing you say, Yeah, I see that as a good thing. And what gives you some pause? The
22:36  Rev. Mark Brandt
I don't have a teleprompter for this, Keith. So I'll have to
22:41  Unknown Speaker
think a little and maybe double back on something. But I the hopeful thing for me is there are just so many, I'm gonna say pastors, there's plenty of others, I mean, teachers and lay people but but but my experience, especially as with pastors, so many pastors, who have a love for the Lord, and allow for the last and are willing to do within, of course, the boundaries of Scripture and Lutheran confessions, to do whatever is necessary to reach them. And we've certainly seen that a lot these last six months, with the Coronavirus and all of the unique and creative ways, approaches that that pastors have been taking. And some would say, yeah, that didn't work out so well. And others would say, we're gonna keep doing this indefinitely. And so, for me, that just gives a lot of hope St. Lorenz has been in the vicarage program for I think we're on our 16th Vicar now. And I see the quality of the men who are coming out of the seminaries. And that also gives me a lot of hope. I guess it gives me pause is really just the opposite of what I've said that, because I've also become aware of anyway, pastors, in particular now who aren't able to make that adjustment, for whatever reason, and it's not, you know, they don't want to or it's just that the, the change has happened so quickly. And they feel ill equipped, and don't know how to become equipped. And so they're losing heart, or they really think that the way we've always done it is still the way to do it. And that's going to work in fewer and fewer places as time goes on.
24:39  Host Keith Haney
Well, thank you for that. That's really good. Anything I haven't asked you that I should have asked you.
24:46  Rev. Mark Brandt
Well, yeah, one thing that comes to mind is I see a tendency of this in myself, and I especially aware of it because I've seen it in others. Otherwise I think it probably would have snuck up on me or sneaked up on me. And, and that really is, it's so easy, I believe, especially when we were coming towards the end of our ministry to, to have a sense of entitlement and that, you know, I've served the Lord faithfully. I've served this congregation for however many years. And so now I'm kind of old or something. And maybe, maybe I'm, I'm old, a little more relaxed pace of ministry for the last however many months or, or years or, or I don't know what but the, it's, I think it's very easy to lose sight of the fact that I got into ministry to serve. And for that, to kind of flip around to, I've served and I've served faithfully, and well, some of the time anyway. And now to be served a little bit sounds pretty good. And I think, of course, we would never, you know, intentionally, and consciously have those kinds of thoughts. But I think that's something just to be aware of, and on the lookout for.
26:05  Host Keith Haney
That's really good idea. Good point. You get to the point, where, where's my plaque now for all of my so you got to be careful not to look for that golden plaque on your door.
26:16  Rev. Mark Brandt
Or maybe something a little more tangible?
26:20  Host Keith Haney
Well, thank you so much, Pastor brown for taking the time with me, it's been a real joy to have you on this podcast, I just want to thank you for your years of service to the church. It's
26:30  Rev. Mark Brandt
a privilege indeed.
26:31  Host Keith Haney
Yeah. And I and on behalf of the Congress to the LCMS I just want to thank you for your leadership, your, your courage, your your heart and leading, you know, so developing so many pastors along the way, and just having a very vibrant ministry there in Franklin was, which is, you know, a wonderful place to visit I spent some time with my wife during our one of our honeymoons. And so it's nice to know that there is that place to come and feel welcomed and, and you do a wonderful job with that with your school ministry and all that. So just blessings on that. We'll be praying for your guy who has a call. And if you want to send a shout out to him to kind of encourage him to take the call, you could
27:12  Rev. Mark Brandt
come on man, there's no better place to serve.
27:15  Host Keith Haney
As right now, thank you for joining me on this podcast I want to send out a shout out to my daughter Sharon, who edits my podcasts for me and makes me sound really awesome. If you want to go deeper, you can follow my blog at the same title the light breaks through at www a light and get similar content sent right to your email box. In the meantime, you can subscribe to this podcast, please take time to rate it. Leave a review. You can find this podcast on all the major platforms iTunes, Spotify and Google podcasts. I invite you to share the podcast with your friends on social media. Thanks once again and my guests for joining me in this life transformation journey.