Responding to God’s Invitation to be Intentional about Succession

I am grateful for the godly legacy of my parents.  As some of you are aware, my dad died a month ago, and it was one year ago July when my mom passed.  So, within the span of just one year I have lost both parents.

At the ages of 86 and 90, neither was a surprise.  There were plenty of signs that the inevitable would come at some point in the not-too-distant future.  It wasn’t a matter of if but when.  And as I reflect on this recent journey, one of the many things I am grateful for is the time we spent in advance to prepare.  What a difference it has made.

This story of legacy and succession is not only a part of every family, it is also a part of the story of every congregation.  Succession is an inevitable reality in your life as a leader and in your journey together as a congregation; therefore, it’s worth giving it significant consideration in advance.

In fact, one of the beautiful signs of a healthy leadership team is the ability to openly dialogue on this topic without it being threatening or creating a climate of anxiety.  It does not serve our congregations well to ignore the inevitability of succession or live in denial of its reality.

Perhaps in some way the following story is theirs to tell, but let me give you a brief glimpse into what recently unfolded at Arbor Heights Community Church in West Seattle. Ken Ross came to Arbor Heights over a decade ago to be the Lead Pastor.  Several years into the process, he began intentionally looking for who God might raise up to be his successor.  Eventually, a young man began attending the church who demonstrated the capacity and calling toward pastoral ministry.  As Ken discipled him, they began exploring this possibility together.  In time, this led to an open dialogue with the leadership team. This man was John Lindow, the current Lead Pastor of Arbor Heights.

As Ken’s departure began to take on more clarity, he contacted our office to invite us into the process.  As we came alongside the leadership of the church to coach them through the transition, God used the process to confirm His calling on John’s life to become the next pastor.  He was installed as Lead Pastor at Arbor Heights this past April.

This is a beautiful example of a leader responding to God’s invitation to be intentional about succession—looking for who God is raising up, investing in them, carrying the conversation forward—all for the sake of being faithful in creating an opportunity for a healthy handoff from his leadership to the next.

How open are you to the conversation about succession?  How intentional are you about planning for the inevitable?  Is there anyone in close proximity to you whom God may be calling to pastoral leadership?  What will succession look like for you and your church?  We’d love to have a conversation with you about succession.

If you would like to talk more about planning for succession, email me at Planning early can create a beautiful story for your church.


11 ‘Rules for Your Thumbs’ for Church Leaders & Influencers Using Social Media

Social media can be a powerful ministry tool, but it can be a double-edged sword, just like our tongues. In 3 Simple Rules of Social Media, Eric Seiberling reminds us of John Wesley’s recommendations for Christians seeking to live a faithful life: Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God.
These are particularly relevant in the parallel world of social media, a world that takes every twiddle of our thumbs and makes them public and everlasting. The potential for encouragement, affirmation, and getting the word out is great, but social media also gives all who hold leadership positions in the church – pastors, volunteer workers, small group leaders –an open mic and little guidance for how it should be used.
Here are a few practical implications from Wesley’s recommendations to keep in mind before clicking Post. These may be good to personally ruminate on, and/or become part of how staff and lay-leaders are trained as emissaries of the church’s mission.
  1. Reflect on your relationship with social media: How does it help you stay in love with God? How does it hinder you? How can you use it to further the Kingdom?
  2. Be an encouraging presence in an online world that can often feel anxiety-inducing and negative.
  3. Remember that your audience is much wider than those involved in the post or conversation, and context is often missing for those who read what you post. Kendall Corner writes: “Think of your web space less like your living room and more like your front yard.” Assume that anything on Facebook could be read by anyone at anytime.
  4. Your church’s social media presence should be separate from your own. If you’re managing both, keep in mind which “hat” you’re wearing when you think about what to post, and where.
  5. That said, your personal online presence still represents your church to those encountering you in social media. Tailor your online self to reflect what you would like people to think of your church. (This is true for lead pastors as well as anyone in a position of leadership or influence in the church.)
  6. Ask the questions: Is this post winsome? Does it show Christ’s love, or is it to make myself look good? Could it do harm to the reputation of Christ, the church, or another person? Could it leave others feeling excluded?
  7. Liking a post means endorsing it, and it attaches your name to it for those who are your online friends or followers. Before you Like a post or article, make sure its content is something you would be comfortable saying yourself on a Sunday morning, or saying to anyone who could see it online.
  8. Social media is a two-way street: people will be eager to hear from you, see your family pictures, etc., but you should also focus on affirming others by leaving encouraging messages and Likes on their family pictures and posts. This builds a real connection between you and those who choose to be connected with you online.
  9. Stay above-board and beyond reproach in your interactions with others and keep things public (rather than private messages) as much as possible. Stay away from private messaging conversations with people of the opposite sex or youth to avoid situations that appear compromising or imply untoward intentions.
  10. When in doubt, ask the opinion of someone you trust to vet the content of your post before you press Post.
  11. You will never regret taking the high road — and sometimes that means saying nothing at all.
Additional reading:

Good News from the Field: July 2017 Edition

Two New Lead Pastors at Alliance NW Churches 

Friendship Alliance Church in Winthrop, WA and Moses Lake Alliance Church in Moses Lake, WA have extended the call to new Lead Pastors, and their candidates have accepted. Let’s welcome Dave and J’lene Dechape to Moses Lake, and Jason and Katie Suter to Friendship Alliance!

Washington Church Plants New Ground and Anchor See Early Growth

New Ground Alliance Church, under Lead Planter Bill Creutzberg, were thrilled to have over 70 people attend their preview gathering in Clarkston, Washington. Many of those attending were new and from the surrounding neighborhood.

Anchor Church, planted by Bryan Halferty in the old Tacoma Alliance building, hosted a “vision and info” night and had 28 people come to consider joining the core team.

Seven Pastoral Ordinations in the Alliance NW This Spring

Washington: Thomas Clapper, Fox Island Alliance Church; John Gee, Chico Alliance Church

Oregon: Adam Harvey, Mosaic; Tim Skelly, Green Community Church; Lance Baker, Dallas Alliance Church; Gerad Neely, Salem Alliance Church; Paul Boehlke, One Life Church

A word from Micah Dodson, Church Planting Lead…

The Dodson family is deep in the weeds of transition this summer. Within the span of ten days, we celebrated our daughter’s high school graduation, moved our eldest son into college student housing, squeezed all of our belongings into a storage container, and then packed the remnants of our family and home into some very full suitcases to spend the month in Central Washington, waiting on the completion of our new home in Vancouver.

As I drove across a large part of Western and Central Washington last week, I saw the signs of future investment: farmers’ fields sprouting with wheat, corn beginning its trajectory out of the dirt, and rows of cars lining the cherry orchards.

This reminded me of those that have invested in my life over the years, and those I’ve invested in. One person in particular comes to mind. Darren, my youth pastor, invested in my life as I first came to faith in Jesus. His investments were simple, and yet formative in preparing me for the life of following and serving Jesus. He met with several of us on a weekly basis to memorize Scripture, learn how to pray, how to have times of solitude and worship, and how to hear God’s voice. He and his wife welcomed us into their home. We read books like the Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman and the Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer. The weekly attendance at this youth group rarely broke twenty students, but of those, five or more are now serving in full time ministry.

Later this month, I will get to celebrate the ordination of one of our church planters in whom God has allowed me to invest over the years. I first met him as a middle-schooler in a duck hunting blind. Over a decade later, he has blossomed into a maturing man of God that loves his family, his city, and those God is calling him to lead and shepherd.

God is calling us to invest in a future harvest. We hear Jesus’ words: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, he will send workers.” As you enjoy the rest in these summer months, let me encourage you to reflect on who God is calling you to intentionally pour into in this coming season. Who are the three, six, nine, maybe even twelve people that God is calling you to invest in for the future harvest? 

Micah Dodson
Alliance NW
Church Planting Lead

Announcing Field Forum 2018: “The Call”

Field Forum 18: The Call

Important Notice!  “The Call” will be our theme for Field Forum 2018. We believe God has a call on leaders younger than you in your church, to advance your church. Key to the purpose of next year’s Field Forum is helping equip and inspire future leaders for your church and the Kingdom at large.

For next year’s Field Forum, would you consider prayerfully inviting and including an up and coming leader from your ministry–could be a staff member, could be a future elder–to experience this event with the leadership of the Alliance NW? 

We’re announcing now as this may impact budgeting planning for many. To help, the Field Office will cover the future leader’s registration costs when registered with a licensed worker – leaving only lodging and transportation costs for the church. This offer is for future leaders who have not attended a prior Field Forum.

In addition to that, some have indicated a desire to bring their entire Elder/Governing Board. Others will want to include staff team members who’ve never been. Still others may want to use the event to engage young men and women with “the stuff” to be future leaders.

We’re moving to a new, larger location (the Red Lion on the Portland side of the Columbia River) to provide room for you to include additional leaders for this special event. And, we’ve already begun planning Field Forum 2018 in order to make it an event that will catalyze your church’s health, and its ability to effectively make and deploy discipled leaders who live out the mission of God.

Registration will be $211 + Hotel ($134/night for single/double occupancy).

Good News from the Field: June 2017 Edition

34 Leaders Attend Foundations and Assessment Events in May

Men and women from churches across the Alliance NW gathered in Canby, OR in late May for Foundations, a key component along the path of Licensing, Ordination, or Consecration that introduces attendees to the history of the Alliance movement, as well as Assessment, which prepares leaders for church planting and local ministry.

Thank you to Canby Alliance Church for so generously providing facilities and volunteers throughout the week for both Foundations and Assessment!

New Lead Pastors at East Hills Alliance and Green Community Church

Steve Diehl comes to East Hills in Kelso, WA from Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he pastored Sherwood Community Church and founded Forgiveness Ministries, which helps individuals develop a lifestyle of authentic, Biblical forgiveness. Steve will be installed mid-July.

In Southern Oregon, Tim Skelly has accepted Green Community Church’s call to become their Lead Pastor. Previously, Tim was Lead Pastor at Gateway Faith Center in Roseburg for fifteen years, as well as an instructor at Umpqua Valley Christian School and a hospital chaplain. He and his wife Kathy have three daughters and one grandchild.

Anchor Church Plant to Begin in Tacoma, WA

Bryan Halferty, fresh from his role at Mercer Creek Church, will be moving to Tacoma with a team of 20 to plant Anchor Church in the former Tacoma Alliance building. Fox Island Alliance will be serving as a Greenhouse supporting church while they prepare to plant.

Jason Simmonds joins Alliance NW Field Office

The Field Office is thrilled to welcome Jason Simmonds to the team, beginning August 1.

Born and raised in Seattle, WA, Jason has been a part of Alliance churches since he was two years old. He most recently served as Senior Associate Pastor and Church Planter with Mosaic in Portland, Oregon. He and his wife Kathy have been married 21 years, and have four children: Maisy, Joe, Levi, and Nora. His hobbies include fishing, the outdoors, and yard work (preferably with power tools).

Jason will be overseeing Leadership Development across the Alliance NW; this includes guiding Licensing, Ordination, and Consecration efforts, as well as oversight of Alliance NW Networks.

Good News from the Field: May 2017 Edition

Island Church of Whidbey Sends Support to Naukati Bay

In what will become a more regular partnership, Island Church of Whidbey sent their first team of 8 people to Naukati Bay. They will help with building projects connected to the church, including the Eagles Wings recovery ministry. Two more trips are planned for May and July.

Additionally, Jon Platt, a student from RTI, will be interning at Naukati Bay as their youth pastor for the next few months. Wish him luck as he hones his Alaskan survival techniques!

Kitchen Crew Worker Experiences God at Reach

Joseph Zysk from Crosspoint Alliance Church had been carrying some heavy emotional pain when he came to Reach as part of the kitchen team. Invited to evening worship by a fellow kitchen worker, Joseph broke down in prayer and gave his burdens to God. “Until the day I die I will always remember this trip to Reach,” Joseph says. “I went to serve and bless others, but I was the one truly blessed.”

Madison Community Church Reaches ESL Community with Talk Time

Madison’s heart for their neighbors is making an impact on immigrants looking to improve their English through a program called Talk Time. Margie Snodgrass, who helped establish Talk Time at North Seattle Alliance, and Madison Community Church were recently written up in the local paper. In related news, Madison is positioning to move into their new building soon, after a long season of construction.

Celebrate the One Year Anniversary of International Christian Church, a multi-ethnic, multi-site church plant

International Christian Church, under Romualdo “Doods” Sente, began as Filipino-America Worship Center in Arlington, WA last year. Here they are, after this year’s Easter service:

International Christian Church group photo


Good News from the Field: March 2017

Reach 2017

300 high schoolers and youth leaders descended onto Washington Family Ranch for this year’s Reach retreat. They emerged with lives changed. Click the video to hear some Mercer Creek students’ experiences.

And that’s just one of the 18 churches that sent students to Reach! Overall, there were 15 first-time decisions to follow Jesus (including one from our kitchen crew), and 25 students chose to recommit their lives to Christ. In addition, we’re hearing of baptisms firming up these commitments: there were seven students baptized after the event at Mercer Creek alone.

A big thank you to the 50+ volunteers who helped make Reach 2017 such a success!


East Side Network Partners to Support New Plant

Last month, Rod Cosgrove of Garland Avenue Alliance Church, Terry Gugger of Orofino Community Church, and Paul Smith of CrossPoint Alliance Church started a new network. After an afternoon of punishing targets at a shooting range, the three pastors processed and agreed upon a network covenant. The next morning, they took on their first church plant. The newly formed network has agreed to send and support Bill Creutzberg to start New Ground Church in Clarkston, WA.


Other news you need to know…

Tacoma Alliance (Tacoma, WA): Following an extensive health assessment and intentional interim pastor, Tacoma Alliance Church has recognized that its ministry life is coming to a close. Sunday April 30th, the church will be celebrating its history and heritage over many fruitful and productive years. An emerging network of Alliance churches in the Tacoma area and Northwest Church Planting are actively talking with a potential planter to start a new congregation in the facility.

Clover Pass Community Church (Ketchikan, AK): For a number of reasons, the Field Leadership Team of the Alliance NW unanimously voted to move Clover Pass from Accredited status to Redeveloping status, following the departure of their last pastor. Mick Ewing from Juneau, AK has been appointed interim pastor.

When the Nations Move In Next Door

I wonder if God is expediting the completion of the Great Commission by having people from all the nations move in next door to people like you and me. I love that our family of churches started when one man left a stuck-in-the mud church to plant among the needy refugees pouring in from Europe.  How much of A.B. Simpson’s commitment to love his neighbors still resides in us?

By now you probably know that there are currently 65 million people displaced globally. It represents the worst humanitarian crisis in the world since WWII, and yet it seems like the news cycle is growing weary of the story. Sadly, when it comes to refugees, most evangelicals support banning them from the U.S. altogether. Increasingly, it seems, we can quickly suspect anyone who’s not “one of us.” Consider what happens in your own heart when someone gets in your space that is totally different from you.

A religious leader asked Jesus to unpack the theological idea behind the word “neighbor” (the guy had decided there were certain kinds of people he didn’t have to have anything to do with).  In response, Jesus told a story.  The story made a hero out of a despised foreigner with a heretical religion – a Samaritan.  The hero’s love-in-action lifestyle to a person in serious need of help is portrayed against the non-action and disdain of local congregation leadership.  The point of the story?  Be like the Samaritan.

It made me stop and think about my life. It also made me stop and think about the state of the Church in the U.S.

God’s stated plan for you and me (and the congregations we lead) is to love those unlike us but living near us by meeting tangible needs in the name of Jesus. How does his desire to love others “not like you” find practical expression in your life, and in the life of your church?

I love pursuing the Acts 1:8 mission with you!
Randy Shaw
Field Director, Alliance NW

P.S. Compassion and Mercy Associates (CAMA) is our “boots on the ground” in caring for displaced people worldwide. You can trust CAMA with your financial resources that are set aside to help the current global refugee crisis. Donate here to provide tangible help for the global refugee crisis in the name of Jesus.