Last month, VitalChurch interim pastor Dave Miles concluded his time at Christ Community Church (CCC) in Rochester, Minnesota. When VitalChurch arrived, the church was still reeling from the loss of their longtime lead pastor. There was a lot of grief and conflict associated with his resignation, and the 1,000-plus-member church was having a difficult time discerning how to move forward.
After going through VitalChurch’s diagnostic assessment, which revealed the issues the church was facing, Dave Miles was brought in as interim pastor to lead the church through VitalChurch’s revitalization process. Miles was assisted by fellow VitalChurch interim pastors Gregg Caruso, Rich Schoenert, and Tom Wilkens.
The church dedicated themselves to the process, and now, 16 months later , is a healthier place, with a solid, established mission. In January, CCC confirmed Darril Holden to be the next lead pastor , and he began his ministry at the church at the beginning of March.
At the conclusion of our time at CCC, we spoke with multiple church members—from elders to staff to volunteers—and asked them to talk about their experience with the VitalChurch team and the impact we had in various aspects of their church.
Healing and Reconciliation
One of the main issues facing CCC when we arrived was a high level of hurt and conflict. There was confusion surrounding the former pastor’s abrupt resignation, which left many people angry and grieving. Church elder Jeremy Balster commented on the situation, “…we weren’t equipped to manage the grief, to manage the repentance, to manage the reconciliation, and we weren’t equipped to strategize for the future.”
Pastor Miles worked with CCC to address these issues, as well as the unhealthy patterns that had created the problems to begin with.
Transition Team member Teresa Cole said, “It was beneficial to do a huge self-evaluation. To stop and look at what we are doing and what’s broken.”
Balster also commented,
We can’t underestimate the value of the reconciliation that has happened. We did what we could to own it and reconcile it and Dave had a significant hand in helping us know what that looks like.”
Volunteer Teresa Smith said,
Without VitalChurch’s guidance and Dave leading us through the process of restoration, we would not be prepared for Darril to lead us where God wants us to go.”
Staff member Sara Thiessen said, “We could have gone through a massive church split, but didn’t.”
Impactful Focusing Sessions
Several church members we spoke with mentioned the focusing sessions that are a part of the VitalChurch process. These sessions involve the entire church body, and allow people to discuss what the church has historically done well, and what areas could be improved. They help the church zero in on their core values and establish a mission that can guide them in the future.
Transition Team member Matt Reuter called the focusing sessions “change management at its finest,” and said, “The Vital Church refocus sessions bring much needed attention to your church’s past, and build hope and opportunities to your future by establishing a solid mission and a set of values that your church can live by.”
Empowering the Congregation for Ministry
In the past, CCC had been largely a staff-run church. The paid church staff was in charge of virtually every aspect of ministry . During Pastor Miles’s time as interim pastor, he helped the staff at CCC encourage and empower church members to take more ownership of the ministry.
Our congregation feels more empowered to do the ministry. The congregation has taken more ownership. That’s been a huge step for our church.” Elder David Kuck echoed this sentiment, saying, “Before, the staff did everything, but now lay leaders are being developed to lead ministries.”
Establishing a Healthy Relationship with Denominational Leadership
Even though CCC is officially a part of the Christian & Ministry Alliance (CMA), the church had little contact with the denomination over the years. With the arrival of VitalChurch, that began to change. At the request of the elders, Pastor Miles worked to foster a relationship between CCC and their local denominational leadership.
Dave has put us on a path and has opened the door for us to create a healthier relationship with the district.”
As a result, CCC is able to take advantage of the support provided by the CMA and feels more connected to the denomination as a whole.
Pastors, Not Just Church Consultants
Several congregation members expressed that they were skeptical of the process in the beginning, but their minds were changed as VitalChurch worked with the church.
Director of Operations Steve Wernimont said, “Being a skeptic on the front end, not liking consultants, I see that VitalChurch [pastors are] not consultants . The big benefit is that we had an [interim] pastor that was unbiased and experienced in everything imaginable when it comes to churches in crisis come in and lead us to unity.”
Another staff member commented that they appreciated the gospel and grace-focused approach VitalChurch brought to the entire process.
CCC is now ready for their next phase of ministry. Incoming pastor Darill Holden is especially grateful for the work d to his arrival. He said, “Without VitalChurch, I would have lasted two years. I would have been an unintentional interim at CCC.” Now, he says, “We will get to harvest the fruit that VitalChurch planted.”
Is your church in a time of transition or crisis? Are you having trouble discerning the way forward? Let VitalChurch help. Contact us to learn more.