A change in pastors can be a difficult transition for churches. That’s why Scott Lokers equips transition ministers in the Great Lakes Region.
Scott Lokers is a change agent by profession and is celebrating one year in a role devoted entirely to change. He serves as the transition ministry catalyst for the Regional Synod of the Great Lakes, overseeing transition ministers serving throughout the region. With coaching, special training, and collaboration, transition ministers lead churches through pastoral transitions for greater fruitfulness and congregational health.
When a pastor retires or leaves a congregation, the primary source of leadership and direction is gone; that absence can be rough on everyone. One of the first consequences is uncertainty among the people. Anxiety goes up and sometimes unwise decisions can be made as a result. Lokers believes pastoral transitions are such critical times in the life of a congregation that placing a transition minister from the region in a vacant church gives the best opportunity for stability, future success, and kingdom advancement.
Transition ministry not only offers the congregation consistent preaching but also opportunities to preach on topics applicable to a church’s specific setting and transition. Transition ministry is very contextual, Lokers says: “It allows congregational leaders to slow down, take deep breaths, and listen to God in discernment” about their unique needs and the process forward. Part of that discernment process is asking good questions. What does God desire in a new season of ministry? How can the church move toward a new mission or vision?
“It enables a congregation to dream and dare to take new steps and helps them be more open to change,” Lokers says. The transition minister’s job is not to have all the answers but to give the church space to think and pray about what is next. Those questions help shape the future.
Lokers shares one recent example of a healthy transition at Covenant Community (RCA) in Hudsonville, Michigan. Tim Meendering, one of the region’s transition ministers, served the church through its transition. When some may have questioned the viability of the church, he helped Covenant Community make challenging decisions with courage and hope, coming through to hire a new pastoral leader and move forward in a new season. Ordained on June 6, 2018, Jamie DeVries is the new pastor at Covenant Community, his first call.
Some of churches that transition ministers work with are legacy churches, congregations in decline that lay the groundwork for a new church to follow them. “It’s a congregation which offers its resources to help others experience the ‘fully-alive life’ in Jesus. If we believe all congregations have a life cycle, then there is no shame in redirecting resources to a new ministry.” Becoming a legacy church ushers in the kingdom in a new way, Lokers says, honoring the good work of previous members and leaders while reaching new people with the hope of Christ.
Transition ministry is all about change. Each church is unique, each transition is unique, and there is a new challenge in each new setting. It is a demanding calling. But in serving as the transition ministry catalyst, Lokers believes his team steps into each new transition for the sake of the gospel. “I work with great people who are really smart and in touch with God,” he says. “I get to learn something new every day.”