Managing the Senior Pastor Transition Process
at Harmony Hill Baptist Church
In November of 2022, Pastor John W. Greene will cross the 50-year mark at Harmony Hill Baptist Church. Throughout that time the Lord has worked mightily through his leadership here on The Hill, having a kingdom impact from Lufkin and reaching around the globe. In 2021 he commissioned the Elder Team to begin planning for an eventual transition. He wants nothing but the best for each individual who calls Harmony Hill their home church.
It is the desire of the Elder Team to walk the church through the transition of Pastor John Greene serving as the Senior Pastor to the next era of ministry here on The Hill. It is the intention of the Elder Team to not only oversee the process with Pastor John through this time, but also with his wife, Kathryn. It is the stated desire of Pastor John and Kathryn to remain active in ministry here on the Hill after the transition – albeit in different roles.
Let us all seek to care deeply for them during this time. Let us consider the best interests of the ministry of the church here on The Hill and in everything we do related to the transition process, may we bring honor and glory to God.
This page is the place to visit and stay current on all things related to the transition. As the plan rolls out, you will be able to see the updates posted here.
- Dec. 4 2022 Business Meeting Transition Update
- Dec 5 Transition Update – Summary
- July Upate - Pulpit Announcement 7-24-22
- April Update – Summary
- Emergency Succession Plan
Pastor John Greene announced at the December 4, 2022, Annual Business Meeting that the intentional overlap with Pastor Todd Core, Lead Pastor elect, has been going very smoothly and is ahead of schedule. Therefore, Pastor John let it be known that he will be moving up his final sermon series from May 2023 to the month of February 2023. Pastor John’s last day as acting Senior Pastor will be the final day in February 2023 and then he will step away for a period (length of time is yet to be determined) before beginning his new role as Pastor Emeritus of Harmony Hill Baptist Church. As of March 1, 2023, Pastor Todd Core will assume the full role of Lead Pastor at Harmony Hill Baptist Church.
I want to share something with you that I feel needs to be shared. People have begun coming to me from time to time to ask when I will retire and what will be next for me. I understand people asking, and here’s what I want you all to know, and I want you to hear me on this and not read any more into this than I’m saying. Because I think about you, the church, and my responsibility, I’ve initiated the conversation with the Elder Team to begin planning for when I transition from being Senior Pastor.
I pray that as long as God gives me breath, there will be a ministry for me here on The Hill. That’s my heart; it’s what I want to do, and I don’t want to be anyplace else. I love this church, but there will be a time when the same God who put on my heart to come here will say my time with you as Senior Pastor is done.
– Dec. 5 2021, Pastor John W. Greene
Our church family is in the midst of a significant transition regarding the position of Senior Pastor.
I have had one consistent assurance in my heart throughout this process: that God was leading me each step of the way.
I assure you that I would not step aside from this labor unless I had the conviction that God was leading in all of this.
Our Baptist Convention has raised the flag of concern that there is a coming tsunami in Baptist ranks of pastoral retirements as baby boomer pastors realize they can no longer carry the weight and responsibility of a demanding ministry, and many churches are unprepared.
I had determined that by the grace of God I wouldn’t let that be our story here on “The Hill.”.
Numbers 8:24-25, “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying ‘ ...FROM THE AGE OF FIFTY YEARS THE LEVITES SHALL WITHDRAW FROM THE DUTY OF THE SERVICE AND SERVE NO MORE. They minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard, but THEY SHALL DO NO SERVICE.”
So, while I’m way past 50 years of age, I have served 50 years now and it confirmed what the Spirit was saying in my heart and mind, that there is a God-appointed time when The Spirit will lead His Pastors to prepare the church for his successor.
This morning I want to share three exciting items:
- The Elder’s recommendation for the next man to serve as Senior Pastor here on “The Hill”
- Details of the timeline of my transition
- My future role at “The Hill”
I am excited to announce that your Elder Team is officially recommending Todd Core for the role of Senior Pastor here on “The Hill.”
From the beginning my heart and mind as I contemplated stepping aside settled on Todd as my successor. I knew Todd would have to confirm what I believed to be God’s leading.
I went to Todd and asked him if he would pray about being my successor. It was a total shock to him and for a moment he just looked at me and then said, “Yes sir, I will pray about it and see if I get the Lord’s confirmation.”
It was better than two months later that Todd came to me and said, “Bro John, I believe the Lord would have me put my name forward to follow you here on “The Hill.”
Todd has served our church family for 7 years, and for 2 of those years he has carried the dual role of Student Pastor/Teaching Pastor.
Every single message I’ve heard this man preach, all the devotionals he has given in staff meetings, and all the words that have come out of his mouth during staff and Elder meetings have only assured me that he not only has a love for God’s Word, but that he is also filled with wisdom, does not make rash hasty decisions, and seeks unity in our church family.
Todd has been a sound and sure voice of reason in counseling me and the Elders on church-wide matters and has a ‘big picture’ perspective. He has served with faithfulness on our Senior Leadership Team within the Senior Staff and is respected by all our church office personnel.
Because Todd was an INTERNAL candidate and to assure our church family, we were not guilty of nepotism, The Elders elected to bring in an OUTSIDE ministry known as SHEPHERD STAFF.
Shepherd Staff did a 3rd party review of Todd and a 360 review and profile of our Church. They conducted a 12+ hour interview with Todd over 3-weeks. They spent time with Todd and Todd’s wife, Jennifer. The goal was to provide our church with an OUTSIDER’S view of Todd’s compatibility as a Senior Pastor candidate.
During the review by Shepherd’s Staff of over 100 of our church members, leaders, and staff … our church members consistently shared their desire to see Todd as our next Senior Pastor.
Once all their work was completed Shepherd’s Staff gave Todd Core a compatibility rating with Harmony Hill of 9.5 out of a possible 10 points. THIS IS THE HIGHEST COMPATIBILITY RATING SHEPHERD’S STAFF HAS EVER GIVEN SOMEONE!
Here are two recommendations of Shepherd’s Staff to our church regarding Todd:
- All four assessments revealed similar results. Todd has a tremendous capacity for senior leadership, especially at this Church and for this season and beyond.
- The best course for HHBC is to fully consider Todd Core as the candidate without launching a search for an external candidate.
As we put Todd before our church family, we will make available:
- A copy of Todd’s resumé
- The Senior Pastor job description
- A summary of Shepherd Staffs profile of HHBC and their review of Todd Core
These will be available in our Church Lobby.
Here are our plans moving forward:
- Wednesday evening, August 17th, the church body will meet in the worship center for a Q&A with Todd.
- Sunday, August 28, Todd will preach and there will be a vote in all three services by church members only and those who are at least 18.
The Elders and I, trust and pray that you, our church family, will affirm what we believe to be God’s leading.
OUR RECOMMENDATION IS THAT YOU VOTE ‘YES’ FOR TODD CORE AS OUR NEXT SENIOR PASTOR ON AUGUST 28TH.
Upon Todd’s affirmation vote as Senior Pastor, we will begin his ONBOARDING process. The Elders, and I, have adopted an INTENTIONAL OVERLAP process.
During this time, I have committed to walk alongside Todd, as he transitions to Senior Pastor. I will provide mentorship and insight into the unique aspects of serving as Senior Pastor on “The Hill.”
- From August through December 2022, Todd will continue to lead Student Ministry while working closely with me in professional development. THE ELDER TEAM WILL IMMEDIATELY BEGIN THE SEARCH FOR A STUDENT PASTOR.
- January 2023 … Todd will step away from Student Ministry and begin taking on Senior Pastor responsibilities while continuing to work closely with me and the Elder Team in professional and relational development.
- GARY PERMENTER, a beloved guest pastor in the Student Ministry will serve as INTERIM STUDENT PASTOR while the Elder Team searches for a new Student Pastor.
- May 2023, Todd will assume the role of Senior Pastor, and I will officially step away from that role
- Beginning June 1st, 2023, I will take a planned sabbatical and transition to a Pastor Emeritus role.
- Kathryn and I will move our offices to The Harmony House, providing Todd the space he needs to lead.
We will continue to provide counseling and I will be available to conduct weddings and funerals as requested by Pastor Todd and do fill-in preaching at his request.
Harmony Hill is my church and will always be MY FAMILY. I will be here to support Pastor Todd and stand under his authority.
There isn’t another person that I would choose to not only be the Pastor of Harmony Hill, but also to be my Pastor.
HERE’S WHAT I’M ASKING FROM YOU:
- 1. Give thanks to The Lord that He has provided for our future and given us a qualified man to serve as Senior Pastor.
- 2. I ask you to be good ambassadors of what I’ve shared. Spread the word throughout our community of what God is doing at “The Hill” and how we are handling Senior Pastor transition.
- 3. Keep the unity of the spirit as we move forward together. Ask the Lord daily to watch over us and help us do this transition well.
- 4. Lastly, I ask that you REMEMBER THE CORE FAMILY and THE GREENE FAMILY in your prayers as we work together to do our part to make the years ahead some of the best years here on “The Hill.”
Pastor John W. Greene
It is the desire of the church to keep you informed about the progress of the eventual transition of Pastor John & Kathryn. We want everyone to join us on this journey and ask you to keep this matter in prayer. It is very rare to have a pastor in one place for 50 years and even more rare when it is his only pastorate. The impact of a transition can be significant and therefore, it is imperative that we remain unified because of our desire to glorify God in our actions.
There are 3 things that we would like to update you on related to the transition.
- Based on historical precedence and the guidelines of the bylaws, the Elder Team will be leading in the search process for the next Lead Pastor. This search will include both internal and external candidates, exhausting internal candidate options before proceeding to do a nationwide search, as deemed appropriate by the Elder Team.
- To provide stability in the transition season and for years to come, the Elder Team is working with staff and church members on 3 strategic projects as part of this transition.
- First, we have begun working on hiring staff for open positions to ensure that every ministry of Harmony Hill is supported by leadership that is passionate, gifted, and called to serve in each area. We have already filled the Discipleship Pastor role in January with Pastor Justin Easley. We have been and continue to actively seek a Children’s Pastor/Director.
- Second, Pastor John, the Elder Team, and various staff, and church members are working together to prayerfully define Harmony Hill’s Identity and Direction. The Elders have contracted Sherpa (consulting firm) to help us in this process. We began by considering the people, community, and passions that God has given us, and we will continue by discerning how He is calling our church to serve accordingly. This will be a 6 to 9-month process that will end with defined Identity and Direction that will bring organizational continuity by articulating a vision and purpose for the church that is not defined by a single leader but by the church’s distinctives/the Lord’s leading. We will continue to provide updates and request feedback along the way.
- During this process, we have also realized that our bylaws and constitutions are outdated and, in many ways do not reflect changes in operation that we have already approved as a church. Therefore, the Elder Team and staff will review our current bylaws in light of current structures and operations and the Identity and Direction process and present suggested changes to the church body at an upcoming business conference (future date to be decided).
- A webpage is being developed that will contain regular updates and videos from the Elder Team and Pastor John to keep our church family informed during the transition process.
Many hours have already gone into this process, and many more will be invested as we work together to discern God’s will for His church here on The Hill. As we continue working on these projects, several of you will be called upon to provide insight and feedback. Whether you are called upon or not, you are a beloved member of this congregation, and we value your involvement in our church family. We are asking you to help by communicating updates in your circles of influence and speaking up if you hear doubts or assumptions being made. You play a crucial role in maintaining truth and unity in our church body.
Please pray. We will continue to provide periodic updates on the transition webpage and from the pulpit. In the meantime, we need the whole church unified in prayer and spirit. We ask that your families pray regularly in the following ways:
- for our church family to be guarded against disunity, gossip, or doubts
- wisdom and discernment for the Elder Team
- for Pastor John & Kathryn and their entire family
The purpose of the Emergency Succession Policy is to ensure the continuous coverage of duties critical to the ongoing successful operations of HHBC. The Elder Team is adopting policies and procedures for the temporary appointment of acting staff members in the event of an unplanned and extended absence of key positions.
Filling Ministerial Staff Needs
We have begun working on hiring staff for open positions to ensure that every ministry of Harmony Hill is supported by leadership that is passionate, gifted, and called to serve in each area. We have already filled the Discipleship Pastor role in January with Pastor Justin Easley. On Dec. 11, 2022, we hired a children’s minister. We are working on hiring a Student Pastor.
Identity & Direction
Pastor John, the Elder Team, and various staff, and church members are working together to prayerfully define Harmony Hill’s Identity and Direction. The Elders have contracted Sherpa (consulting firm) to help us in this process. We began by considering the people, community, and passions that God has given us, and we will continue by discerning how He is calling our church to serve accordingly. This will be a 6 to 9-month process that will end with defined Identity and Direction that will bring organizational continuity by articulating a vision and purpose for the church that is not defined by a single leader but by the church’s distinctives/the Lord’s leading. We will continue to provide updates and request feedback along the way. This will begin to be rolled out in 2023.
Bylaws and Constitution
During this process, we have also realized that our bylaws and constitutions are outdated and, in many ways do not reflect changes in operation that we have already approved as a church. Therefore, the Elder Team and staff will review our current bylaws in light of current structures and operations and the Identity and Direction process and present suggested changes to the church body at an upcoming business conference. The changes to the Bylaws and Constitution were presented at the Annual Business Meeting on Dec. 4, 2022 and both were approved.
WHEN IS PASTOR JOHN TRANSITIONING?
On March 1, 2023, Pastor John will begin a sabbatical time and upon returning will assume the role of Pastor Emeritus.
WHO WILL BE LEADING THE SEARCH FOR A NEW PASTOR?
Based on the guidelines of the Constitution & Bylaws and the historic precedent of the church leaders being the group that makes up the search team, the elder team will be leading our church in this process.
WHO IS THE ELDER SEARCH TEAM RECOMMENDING AS A CANDIDATE FOR SENIOR PASTOR?
It is the unanimous recommendation of the Elders to put forth Pastor Todd Core as candidate for Senior Pastor. Pastor John said, “There isn’t another person that I would choose to not only be the Pastor of Harmony Hill, but also to be my Pastor.”
WHAT WILL BROTHER JOHN & KATHRYN DO AFTER THE TRANSITION?
It is the stated desire of Pastor John and Kathryn to remain active in ministry here on the Hill after the transition – albeit in different roles. As God leads, we will be excited to share with you what those responsibilities will be.
WHEN WILL KATHRYN TRANSITION AND WHAT WILL SHE BE DOING?
Kathryn will finish her role in Women’s Ministry at the end of May 2023. She will be actively involved in counseling and working alongside of Pastor John.
WHO WILL TAKE KATHRYN’S ROLE IN WOMEN’S MINISTRY?
Chrissy Smith has already begun taking on the responsibilities of Women’s Ministry under Kathryn’s mentorship. Chrissy will assume that role fully once Kathryn transitions.
WHEN WILL THE VOTE TAKE PLACE FOR THE NEW SENIOR PASTOR?
August 28, 2022 after each morning service.
IT WAS STATED THAT ONLY MEMBERS 18 YEARS OLD AND OLDER WOULD BE ELIGIBLE TO VOTE. WILL THIS BE MONITORED?
Yes. We are doing our best to verify all those who are members 18 years and older. Unfortunately, because of years of different individuals responsible for the record keeping with over 3,000 records, there is some confusion with some individuals regarding their status. Anytime we encounter this, we will have to speak to the individual to verify/change/add information and update the database records. The process being developed for the vote on Sunday, August 28, is designed to monitor this.
WHO WILL TAKE PASTOR TODD’S PLACE IN STUDENT MINISTRY?
The church has lined up an interim Student Minister, Gary Permenter, to start on January 2023. Many have already met Gary as he has been a guest speaker for our youth on a couple of occasions.
WHEN WILL THE ELDERS BEGIN A SEARCH FOR A REPLACEMENT FOR PASTOR TODD IF HE IS VOTED IN AS THE NEXT SENIOR PASTOR?
The Elders will begin a search for a Student Ministries Pastor on September 1, 2022.
HOW CAN I PRAY?
Pray for God’s provision of a Children’s Ministry leader.
Pray for Pastor John & Kathryn as they plan for their next season of ministry.
Pray for the Elder Team as they seek God’s will for our church leadership.
Pray for the “heart” of our church body to be united during the transition.
WHAT IS PISGAH?
Pastor John began to realize God’s call to transition (Pisgah – the mountain from which God showed Moses the land He had promised the Israelites through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but also the mountain where God told Moses he would not inhabit the land with the Israelites. Duet 34:1-5).
WHO IS SHERPA?
Sherpa is a consulting firm that specializes in “Guiding ministry transitions, helping churches, para-church ministries, and nonprofit organizations steward key leadership transitions.”
“Pastoral Succession is one of the biggest stewardship challenges facing the Church in the next 10 years.”
The website can be found at https://www.successionsherpa.com/
WHO IS THE SHEPHERD'S STAFF?
This is an organization that specializes in ministry staffing matters.
“Our staff is committed, both as individuals and as a team to being as useful and unique as a staff is in the Shepherd’s hand so that He is able to empower you and your church ….”
The website can be found at https://theshepherdsstaff.com/