By Sharon Mager
COLUMBIA, Md. — A wise pastor once said, “I’m not ready to ride off into the sunset, but I know which way the horse is facing.”
“Pastors are not eternal,” says Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) State Director of Evangelism Director Mark Dooley. God directs them elsewhere; they retire; they get ill. The pastor knows, the church knows, but no one wants to think about it.
“Transition is always difficult, but a church can prepare for it, especially in a situation of retirement,” Dooley says. “Churches are much better off when they have the foresight and wisdom to say, ‘this is the elephant in the room. This is coming. Let’s get ready.’ They can flourish instead of flounder.”
“You can’t prepare for every situation,” Dooley acknowledges, “but you can for some.”
Dooley will lead a panel discussion on Nov. 11, in conjunction with the BCM/D Annual Meeting in Ocean City on Nov. 10-11. The panel includes Brent Brewer, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Laurel, in Maryland; Stan Beall, associate pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Huntingtown, Maryland; Brian Dempsey, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Perryville, in Maryland; John Gauger, BCM/D evangelism and pastoral connection consultant; Jason Pamblanco, the pastor of Leonardtown Baptist Church in Maryland, and Mike Williamson, a deacon at Leonardtown Baptist Church.
Beall, Gauger, and Dooley lovingly helped prepare their churches for a transition. Beall led the way for Brewer, Gauger for Dempsey, and Dooley for Pamblanco. Williamson was on a church search committee. Each of them will share their church’s story and how they successfully transitioned. There will also be a time for questions and answers.
“We must go out well. The church is the bride of Christ, and we are the shepherds. Our concern should be the care of the church, and its stability, as much as possible. Even if things aren’t working out, there’s got to be a way to bless the church,” emphasizes Dooley.
“There may be some measure of upheaval, but it doesn’t have to be ‘topsy-turvy,'” Dooley concluded.