Succession at CLCC

Handoffs are important, whether you are passing the baton in a relay race at the Olympics running the 4×100 relay, or you’re a Quarterback and you’re handing off the football to the Running Back, how you transfer the baton or football is important. When it comes to handing off the leadership role in a church, the risk becomes even greater. 

Over the past couple of decades churches have discovered the importance of intentional and thoughtful leadership transition. Over the past 30 years CLCC has become a multigenerational, multiethnic and multisite church.  Since being planted in 1992 CLCC has only known one Lead Pastor.  We have proven the point that stability in senior pastoral leadership really matters to the health and growth of local churches.

In 2018 Pastor Jim began to talk to the Pastoral Staff and Leadership Council about the importance of succession planning.  This is something important to every organization but particularly to those who have had a long term founding pastor. After researching and seeking wise counsel the Leadership Council decided to approach succession in two stages.  The first stage was to prepare for the sudden departure of a lead pastor. Pastor Jim put it this way: “What would happen if I got hit by a bus?”  The second stage was to prepare for the retirement of our lead pastor.  The Leadership Team, which consists of our Leadership Council* and Senior Pastoral Staff**) reviewed the CLCC bylaws and recommended changes to make any sudden transition as smooth as possible.  The CLCC Partnership adopted the changes in March 2020 and was made aware that in the coming, not too distant future, a succession plan would also be needed to prepare for Pastor Jim’s eventual retirement.

Our Leadership Team prayerfully considered a couple of different pastoral transition models.  The traditional model is where the lead pastor resigns, a search is made for a new pastor from outside the local church, and after a brief introduction to the congregation, the candidate is voted upon. This did not seem to be a preferred model for CLCC and several of the Leadership Team had experienced rather challenging results from the disturbance caused to the local congregation. Another model considered, that seems to cause less disruption is to bring to the Partnership a candidate from among the current staff. But among our current staff, there didn’t seem to be a proper fit.  Pastor Jim suggested that we bring onto our staff a pastor who would serve in an Associate Pastor role to see if they might fit into the lead role in the future.  This would involve a discernment process where the Senior Staff and Leadership Council would consider if the new associate might fit well into the lead role.  The new associate would be made aware that his or her new role may or may not lead to him or her being put forward as a candidate for the lead pastoral position.

In July 2021 Troy Neilsen came on staff as an Associate Pastor.  By this time the Senior Pastoral Staff had known Troy for a couple of years and the Leadership Council had interviewed and had become acquainted with him. This involved many Zoom calls with staff and a weekend trip to Abbotsford in April 2021. References were checked and former colleagues interviewed to determine if he was a good fit for our church community. Since Troy is Pastor Jim’s nephew he was well known and trusted to take on the role as Associate Pastor.

After several months of pastoral involvement at CLCC both the Senior Staff and Leadership Council unanimously recommended to the Partnership Pastor Troy as a candidate for the Lead Pastor role when Pastor Jim semi-retires.  In keeping with the desire for a smooth transition the recommendation comes with three conditions:

  1. That while the vote will take place on June 5th, 2022, the actual installment will not take place until January 1st 2023;
  2. On January 1st 2023 Pastor Jim will resign from his lead role and Pastor Troy will begin his tenure; And
  3. While mentoring Pastor Troy for the new Lead Pastor position, Pastor Jim will begin reducing his workload so that by July 2023 he will reduce his time to 2 days per week.

The pastors and the Leadership Council have been praying about and planning for this handoff for several years. In April 2022 Pastor Jim and the Leadership Council revealed the next step in our succession process. As Pastor Jim has been suggesting to us that he is approaching his “best before date” but not necessarily his “expiry date.” Succession involves church leadership providing intentional and thoughtful leadership transition. 

* Our Current Leadership Council Members: Andrew Evans, Gordon Klammer, Bernice Krieg, Jim Lucas, Troy Neilsen, Joy Raisbeck, Don Temple, and Terry Voth

Our Leadership Council Members in 2019: Rick Ball, Rob Dalke, Mark Duyns, Matt Kaminski, Bernice Krieg,, Shelly Patterson, and Terry Voth

** Our Senior Pastoral Staff in 2019: Rick Ball, Monica Columbus, Sarah Dueck, Bryce Edelman, Chad Langarud, Jim Lucas, and Sam Seo

Timeline of how we got here:

Frequently Asked Questions:

What has been Jim’s journey to this point?

“After pastoring CLCC for 30 years I believe it is time to pass over the leadership to a younger generation. I have thoroughly enjoyed pastoring here but believe my “best before date” is quickly approaching. My goal has always been to pass over the reins of leadership while the church is healthy as the well known tendency is for founding pastors to stay too long.  Maureen and I are looking forward to this next phase of our lives and will keep busy teaching, mentoring, grandparenting, and renovating homes into the foreseeable future.”

What has been Troy's journey to this point?

“I graduated in 1996 from what is now called Vanguard College in Edmonton with my Bachelor of Theology. I have worked in different pastoral roles for the past 25 years. Over the years, I have been ordained by the PAOC, the Assembly of God and the Christian Missionary Alliance. 

From 2016 – 2021, I oversaw the Groups and Connections ministries at Beulah Alliance Church in Edmonton.

During my time at Beulah I focused on what it takes to disciple people through groups to help them think like missionaries. I also learned what it takes to recruit and train different teams. I observed what it looks like to run a healthy multi-site church, the systems that help to sustain health and even a good succession. During the last season of working at Beulah I observed first hand a successful succession as their lead pastor of 30 years handed off the responsibility to a new leader after a similar process that we are experiencing here.

Having Jim as my Uncle has helped me understanding CLCC. I remember when my mom told me about Jim planting this church 30 years ago. I’ve visited it on some of our vacations, I’ve know many of the youth pastors (I even tried to hire some of them at the churches I was working at.)” 

What will happen to Jim after succession?

“I will continue to stay on staff at CLCC, preaching once a month and doing whatever I can to help Troy and the rest of our staff move forward the vision of CLCC”

How was the staff engaged during this process?

In the spring of 2019 several Senior Staff from CLCC went to Edmonton to learn from other larger multi-site churches and meet with Troy. Before this trip occurred Jim informed the staff on the trip that Troy might be asked to take an associate pastoral role on our staff. Over the next proceeding months many Zoom calls with different staff were made to continue to see if this would be a good fit. In April 2021, there was a weekend trip for Troy and Andrea to Abbotsford to visit our Leadership Team and to speak to the congregation.  This happened so both parties could continue to explore the possibility of a future role. Pastor Troy was hired as an Associate Pastor and started on July 1st 2021. Pastor Troy started at CLCC with the understanding that he may fill the role of Lead Pastor after a time of discernment by our Senior Staff and Leadership Council. 

Will the vision of CLCC change with our new Lead Pastor?

Churches have both a mission and vision. The mission is fairly constant among evangelical churches. Our expression is to Love God, Love People and Reach the World.  The vision of a church refers to how that particular church goes about fulfilling that mission. This varies from church to church and from time to time. It is about how this particular expression of the Church of Jesus goes about its mission.  This involves being faithful to the values and priorities that the Lord has impressed upon a certain congregation.  It has to be sensitive to the culture where the Lord has placed the church and to the times in which we find ourselves.  Our values are outlined in our bylaws and on our webpage.

One of the reasons healthy, growing churches are choosing to use succession as a method to transition their senior leadership is that the new pastor has an opportunity to understand the vision and values and work within those parameters to lead the church into the future. Our new Lead Pastor will lead us to fulfill the Lord’s calling to us as his body in the Fraser Valley. This will involve learning how to lead us to become all that we can be in keeping with who we are and how he has led us so far on the 30 year journey of CLCC.

What are we asking of our CLCC congregation?

We are asking the CLCC congregation to pray for our pastoral transition.  On June 5th the Partners will be asked to vote on the recommendation of the Leadership Council to elect Pastor Troy as the new Lead Pastor of CLCC.

What were some resources used to guide our succession process?

William Vanderbloeman and Warren Bird: Next: Pastoral Succession that Works

Carolyn Weese and J. Russell Crabtree. The Elephant in the Boardroom: Speaking the Unspoken About Pastoral Transitions.

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld. The Hero’s Farewell. What Happens When CEO’s Retire.