Starting Strong, Ending Well

From the September/October 2015 Making Christ Known

Bishop Gary Wollersheim

To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.Ecclesiastes 3

I think there are a lot of important times in our working lives, but none more important than our beginnings and our endings.

For a pastor, starting strong means listening, learning, and developing relationships based on trust and mutual respect. Sometimes pastors try to make changes too quickly in the congregation such as changing the worship times or the procedure for distributing Holy Communion. These changes often turn out badly because not enough time and energy was spent in developing relationships. When the pastor earns trust first, the congregation is much more open to new ideas and change.

For a pastor, ending well means saying goodbye fully, paying attention to the grief process, setting proper boundaries for future relationships with the congregation, and paving the way for the new pastor. I often say to retiring pastors, “Remember that your calling is much broader than to a congregation. You are also called to serve God in your family, as a good neighbor and friend, as a faithful steward and citizen, and as a supportive member of another congregation.”

The Discipleship Gatherings this year are designed to assist our Synod with the process of ending well and preparing for a new “pastor of the Synod” with the election of a new bishop at our June 16-18, 2016 Synod Assembly.

At these Discipleship Gatherings we will be looking at the responsibilities of a synodical bishop and exploring the challenges and joys of this calling. We will also review the unique election process for a bishop which is called an “Ecclesiastical Ballot.”

I hope that several members of each congregation will attend one of these important meetings.

I am looking forward to seeing you out and about the synod. Thank you for your service and leadership in God’s church.

In Christ,

Bishop Gary Wollersheim