Vitalizing Call Process
By Bishop Steven Delzer
Our synod participated in a feasibility study in the spring of 2015. Feedback was gathered from church members and rostered leaders throughout the synod on a wide range of topics. One area of significant feedback related to call process. Call process refers to the steps involved in a rostered leader coming to serve in a new context.
Many participants in the synod’s recent feasibility study expressed concern about the call process in the Southeastern Minnesota Synod. In response, the Executive Committee of the Synod Council gave approval for a comprehensive review of the call process. Rev. Peter Soli of Dialog Works conducted a review of the process through interviews and surveys with pastors, congregational leaders, and synod staff who had participated in the call process in the last few years.
Rev. Soli’s Comprehensive Report and his Summary of Findings identified both areas of satisfaction and opportunities for improvement in the call process. He also identified four significant polarities that need to be acknowledged and a list of problems to be solved.
In response to the report, the Vitalizing Call Process Task Force was formed comprised of pastors, lay leaders, Assistant to the Bishop Rev. Peter Reuss and Bishop Steven Delzer. The team was asked to review this report and make recommendations. These recommendations are available online in the Vitalizing Call Process Task Force Final Summary (http://semnsynod.org/vitalizingcallprocess). The following quote from their report demonstrates the crucial role that the call process plays in the life of a congregation:
“The calling of a new pastor to share in the faith and life of a congregation is a sacred time within a congregation. It can be filled with hope, tension, apprehension, and uncertainty. The synod (Office of the Bishop) is committed to walking along side congregations through this process and providing Spirit filled guidance and support.”
One recommendation from the Task Force that is already being implemented is the deeper involvement of interim pastors in guiding the call process in the congregations where they are serving. They will be fully trained in the call process and will work to maintain regular communication between the Call Committee, the congregation, and the staff in the Office of the Bishop. Another recommendation from the Task Force is developing a call process that is flexible enough to be customized to the needs of each congregation. Assistant to the Bishop Rev. Susan Miller and Call Process Administrator Cheryse Brenno-Sloan are already at work revising and simplifying the Call Process Manual to make that information more accessible. Rev. Miller, together with Bishop Delzer and other members of the staff in the Office of the Bishop, will also meet with congregations and Call Committees for dialogue about their Ministry Site Profile (MSP) to better understand each congregation’s current situation and leadership needs.
Together we will continue to move toward implementing the recommendations of the Task Force. We are striving to make our call process as effective and helpful as possible, and we appreciate the gracious, thoughtful input of the people of the Southeastern Minnesota Synod.