Another intentional interim period just came to an end for one of our VitalChurch interim pastors. Gregg Caruso, VitalChurch Managing Partner, spent 20 months at Christ Community Church (CCC) in East Taunton, Massachusetts. CCC was experiencing a time of transition following the departure of the Lead Pastor. CCC had also experienced significant staff turnover and there was mounting conflict within the elder board. CCC contacted VitalChurch and after a few months of vetting various transitional ministries, they invited VitalChurch to help guide them through the transition.
The church had seen considerable growth in the 12 years prior to Pastor Caruso’s arrival, but in many ways were still operating with a “smaller church” mindset. After conducting a Tier 2 diagnostic analysis, which is a church health assessment that identifies a church’s strengths and weaknesses, Pastor Caruso got right to work helping CCC with many of their behind-the-scenes issues. He worked with them to reconstitute the Elder Board and update their bylaws, and through a series of all-church summits, they clarified, updated, and restated their core values and mission statement. The job descriptions of all staff members were reevaluated and updated as needed, and new staff members were hired. A Financial Advisory Board was put into place to give financial counsel to the Lead Pastor, Elder Board, and Treasurer.
According to Pastor Caruso, “CCC was already doing many things well prior to my arrival and time as the intentional interim pastor there. Their staff and volunteers were hardworking and diligent in serving God and the church. They had a strong ministry to the marginalized population in the city center, a passion for short-term missions and supporting missionaries around the world. They were in good shape financially, having been wise stewards of their resources over the years; however, there was room for improvement in many areas.”
Besides helping CCC with organizational systems issues, Pastor Caruso also encouraged the rebuilding of the church’s small group ministry as well as their connections ministry to help new attendees assimilate into the large church body. He led the church through a season that focused on developing stronger biblical conflict resolution skills. A prayerful consensus-building culture was formed (see Acts 15:22, 25,28), and classes, workshops, and a sermon series were developed to teach and train congregants to integrate emotional health and biblical conflict resolution skills into the discipleship process.
Helping with the Pastoral Search Process
Facilitating the pastoral search process is another part of what VitalChurch’s intentional interim pastors do during their time in churches. At CCC, Pastor Caruso, with input from staff and elders, assembled and coached a Lead Pastor Search Team (LPST) made up of members of the congregation. The LPST sought input from the congregation regarding the experience, gifts, and skills they were looking for in a lead pastor, and the LPST put together a detailed Lead Pastor Profile. After a substantive application and interview process was established, which was aided by the outside Christian search group Slingshot, the LPST and the Elder Board recommended Senior Associate Pastor Matthew Thornton to be the next Lead Pastor at CCC.
Pastor Thornton was confirmed by a 99% church-wide vote of affirmation and Pastor Caruso finished his time at CCC by officiating at the commissioning of Pastor Thornton. According to Pastor Caruso, “The fact that Pastor Thornton received 99% of the congregational vote of affirmation bodes well for a unified future for a church that intends to authentically carry out its updated mission statement: ‘Learning to live like Jesus and helping others to do the same.’”
Pastor Caruso will continue to support Pastor Thornton and CCC for the next year through follow-up coaching, which is the third phase of VitalChurch’s biblically based three-phase process of church reconciliation.
If you’d like to learn more about how VitalChurch helps churches through times of transition or crisis, contact us today.