Transition at SAFMC

 So, what’s happening at Spring Arbor FM?
That’s certainly a common question that we are asked these days. And rightfully so in this season of transition and change in the life and leadership of our church. While we trust that our church family has been obedient during this time; praying with an expectant spirit, and trusting that God has amazing things in store - it has undoubtedly been a challenging time. 

This type of transition and change always is. As PNW Superintendent Matt Whitehead reminded us last Sunday, even during uncertainty amongst the Israelites, God did what He always does and used the transition of Moses to Joshua to grow His people and fulfill His mission. 

As a leadership team and a body, we remain faithful in worship and with an eye on the cross. Thankfully God has used this time to increase our faith, answer our prayers and bring increased clarity to our church leadership and pastoral team. But candidly, this season has been marked with more change than we could have expected; including staffing and leadership changes involving many people who have faithfully served this church.

Our leadership team felt that it would be helpful to provide a more comprehensive update in order that the church family can be praying with expectancy through this season. So, here it goes…

What’s happening with the Lead Pastor role?
Last spring, after 15 years of appointment, Mark VanValin informed our Conference leadership that he was not going to seek reappointment as the lead pastor of Spring Arbor FM. Brad Wilcox, our Executive Pastor of Operations, was appointed to act as the Chief of Staff during the transition to a new lead pastor, and Michael Forney, the Assistant Superintendent of the Southern Michigan Conference, was appointed as the transition leader to help guide the church through the process. 

In the Free Methodist Church, all ordained elders are appointed annually to the local church by the Ministerial Appointments Committee (MAC) which is comprised of the regional Bishop, Conference Superintendent, two non-clergy members, and one other ordained elder. The MAC conducted a very thorough international search for a new lead pastor with the following qualifications: executive leadership experience in a church over 1000, a graduate degree, good communicator, commitment to mission and discipleship, a heart for strengthening the relationship with SAU, preferably Free Methodist and preferable leadership experience in turning a declining church into a growing healthy church. After careful examination, the MAC - with the support of the Spring Arbor delegates and Board of Ministry - recommended the appointment of Kaye Kolde as the lead pastor of Spring Arbor FM beginning in July 2019.   

Why we praise God for the appointment of Kaye Kolde?
She is the best candidate. Out of the more than 30 candidates considered, Kaye brings the strongest set of qualifications: commitment to obey Jesus; unique gifting mix; quality of spiritual leadership; ordination as a FM elder; experience with executive level leadership in a large church; Ivy League education; and, strategic leadership in reversing decline in a historic Free Methodist church through healthy growth with new conversions. These factors together indicate that God has uniquely prepared Kaye for leadership at Spring Arbor FM. Learn more about Pastor Kaye’s background

What does the Bible say about women in ministry?
While we do not have the space here to unpack all the Scripture says on this topic, when examined in whole, the Bible shows that from the beginning God created human beings as equal partners in the work of God in the world. It is important to remember that we cannot understand what the Bible means for us today until we understand what it meant to the original readers in the time and context in which they lived. We must review the whole Scripture to develop informed theological positions, and not take individual texts out of context. 

There are two theological categories or distinctions that characterize most churches in their position on women in ministry: “complementarianism” and “egalitarianism.” Complementarians believe that women were created to work alongside of men with complimentary gifts but must always serve under the authority of men in the church. Egalitarians believe that men and women were created in the image of God as equal partners in life and in the call of God to do his work in the world. 

By those definitions, Spring Arbor FM, as a part of the Free Methodist Church (FMC), is in the “egalitarian” camp. We believe that the bible teaches  women are free to participate fully in the life, ministry and governance of the church as called and gifted by God, and the FMC ordains women to serve as pastors in the church. In harmony with a long tradition of equal opportunity for women to serve in the church, we affirm God’s call and equip God’s leaders to serve. The Apostle Paul wrote, "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28 NRSV). His point is not to erase God's created differences between male and female, but to stress that gender does not determine whether a person made in God's image can take part in the life and ministry of the church. In this definitive theological statement, Paul makes no distinctions in roles or functions between men and women in ministry.

If you would like to learn more about this, here are some additional resources:
Women in Ministry - Some Hermeneutical Reflections by David Kendall
Bishop Kendall’s Women in Ministry Teaching
Ordaining Women by B.T. Roberts
FMC Statement on Women in Ministry
Wesleyan Perspectives on Women in Ministry

Why someone without a specific degree in Theology/Bible?
Pastor Kaye has a graduate degree in Teaching from University of Pennsylvania which is an elite academic institution. In addition, she has been through the FM elder credentialing process which includes evaluation of theological and biblical proficiency - not just intellectually, but formationally - in her development as a spiritual leader.

Pastoring is a multi-disciplinary role requiring some level of knowledge and proficiency in the following: theology, biblical studies, education, apologetics, pastoral ministry, leadership, organizational development, non-profit management, psychology, preaching, teaching, worship arts, communications, missiology, church planting, spiritual formation, and pastoral care. It’s not possible to require specific degrees in all of these disciplines, but reasonable to expect specific degrees in one or more of these disciplines. All lead pastors in the Southern Michigan Conference are required to pursue ongoing training and education during their appointment. Learn more about the ordination process 

Why someone without lead pastor experience?
Pastor Kaye brings significant executive leadership experience to the table. She served as the Executive Pastor of Sage Hills Church in Wenatchee, Washington - a historic Free Methodist Church in a small, rural city with a regional state college. Kaye was part of the decision-making, a member of the teaching team, and oversaw ministries during a time of significant organizational change. Sage Hills experienced missional growth from under 1000 to over 1500 in weekly attendance, and this experience uniquely prepares Kaye for the lead role at Spring Arbor FM. This specific contextual leadership experience makes her a much more attractive candidate than someone with less contextually relevant lead pastor experience.

Pastor Kaye is an outstanding leader with a strong professional pedigree combined with a deep love for Jesus and a passion for the local church to become a missional force in its community. We are excited for the future of Spring Arbor FM under her excellent leadership.

What has happened with some other church staff roles?
A change in leadership of this nature is significant to any organization or church. And as would be expected, this season of lead pastor transition has brought some challenges, including a number of additional staffing changes. While this is normal during a lead pastor transition, we felt it would be helpful to provide review and context. We’re so grateful for each of the people that God has utilized to fulfill His mission in this church, and we trust that He will continue to do so, even as He anoints and appoints new people with the changing seasons.

In October 2018 - three months into our transition - we had to face some operational realities as a church. Giving had not met expectations and it became clear that staff reductions would be necessary. The decision was made to release Brently Groshong, worship arts director; Kat Groshong, worship arts admin; Sam Durocher, IT; and Cary Brant, social media director. All of these people are dearly loved and performed their jobs well. With God’s help, we saw an improvement in our financial health as an organization and were able to reduce our deficit significantly by year-end. Praise God we have seen strong giving in the first quarter of 2019.

In December, Executive Pastor of Discipleship, Dwight Weber- announced he and Julie were feeling called to plant a network of churches in the Elkhart, Indiana area and that they would be departing at the end of January 2019. This past summer Luke Maggard informed the Conference that he felt called to pursue preparation for a lead pastor role. Luke began to explore options in cooperation with the Ministerial Appointments Committee. As that conversation progressed, Luke informed the church leadership in January of his possible departure in the spring. In February, Pastor Luke and Kaitie (Hospitality Director) decided that Kaitie will step down at the end of March and Pastor Luke at the end of April so they have time to prepare for their next appointment. We cannot share Luke’s opportunities with you at this time but hope to announce an appointment in the coming weeks. 

As you can imagine, each of these transitions resulted in an incredible amount of organizational change for a church of our size and makeup. The remaining staff inherited larger and larger areas of responsibility. We recognized we would need additional help to continue the ministries of the church. Thus in February, Pastor Joe Bridger was added to the team as an interim associate pastor, to help support systems and to prepare for Luke’s eventual departure by providing leadership over VBS and the Children’s ministry. Pastor Joe brings extensive children’s ministry experience and is able to serve in an interim capacity until the new lead pastor can select a long-term replacement for Luke. Pastor Joe is not a candidate for the long-term role. 

Over the winter, we also learned that Richard Hintze - our choir & orchestra director and first service worship leader - would be leaving after the end of the school year due to changes being made at Spring Arbor University. This brought the need for a new worship arts director to the forefront. Chad Rose was invited in to be evaluated as a candidate for the role. Chad and his wife Cynthia would bring to the table significant experience in large historical church settings, and can lead across worship styles, plus build various teams.  Pastor Kaye is involved in the decision-making process on this hiring decision and we will keep you updated as things progress. Ben Parker has done a great job leading the second service worship team and will continue to serve on our worship arts team. 

In July, Pastor Heather Castle will be embarking on a six-week sabbatical in accordance with conference policy for ordained elders. Pastor Heather was due to take the sabbatical last summer but volunteered to delay it in order to serve the church during the lead pastor transition. Please pray she returns rested and ready for the season ahead.

Upon Pastor Kaye’s arrival, Michael Forney will finish his appointment here and will return to his conference duties. Brad Wilcox will finish his appointment as Chief of Staff and will return to his Executive Pastor role.

Please continue to pray for the leadership of the Church. We know there may be other staffing changes that occur in this transition process. Per the Free Methodist Book of Discipline, all appointed members of the staff (Brad Wilcox, Heather Castle, and Ryan Moline) will tender their resignations to the new lead pastor, who may receive or reject their resignations at any point in her first year. We’re thankful for this denominational mechanism. It enables the current leadership team the ability to prayerfully consider their own appointment, and the new lead pastor the opportunity to build the team she deems necessary to help achieve the mission and vision God has given for the Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church.

Where do we go from here?
First, we will continue to obediently follow Jesus. He is the Lord of the Church. We are going to trust His direction through the leadership of His church and prayerfully seek how we can join Him in what He has planned.

Second, we are not going to try to control God. It would be easy to retreat to our comfort zones and make church about our own preferences. We are a little uncomfortable - and that’s probably a good thing. Let’s ask Jesus to use our discomfort to change Spring Arbor community and bring others to faith in Jesus and see His church flourish.

Thirdly, we are going to continue to make room for what Jesus has next. God never changes. His mercies are new every morning. As Matt Whitehead challenged us to do, we will lift up our church to the Lord. We willshow up and participate in the life of the body, We will pitch in and serve in ministry helping our church become everything Jesus intends. We will look around for opportunities to make a difference. We will commit to going deep in our pursuit of God and in obedience to Jesus. We will continue to empower our prayer teams and call our church to pray for a move of God in our community. We will not try to recreate what God has done in the past. We will try to follow Jesus as best we can today.  

NewsJamin Bradley