After three years and one false start the CRCNA will soon have a new Executive Director (pending the approval of Synod). However the succession plan outlined in the Board of Trustees (BOT) supplement to the 2014 Agenda for Synod indicates that both the previous interim Executive Director and deputy Executive Director will continue on in other roles until March of 2015. Does any other organization work this way?
Assuming the best intentions of everyone involved, how does an executive establish direction when people who held the position before are still in the loop? How does an executive establish a relationship with the board of trustees and staff when the previous executives are still in the building? Granted the explanation that some positions cannot be left unfilled and that the individuals have experience in vital areas, would it not be better to allow the new executive to start fresh and fill those positions with people who have the required experience?
In 2009 synod established a set of guidelines for relationships between congregations and former pastors. That synod recognized that the presence of a former pastor creates challenges for a new pastoral relationship. In the background to its recommendation the BOT noted that “when former pastors consider remaining in their congregations, the tendency is to emphasize and articulate the benefits while minimizing the hazards” (Acts 2009, pg. 49). For that and other reasons, the report said that a plan to ignore the conventional wisdom and allow a former pastor to remain in a congregation requires exceptional care, clarity and ongoing conversation.
The relationship between a former pastor and congregation is not exactly the same as the relationship between executive director and the Christian Reformed Church. There are enough similarities, however, to hope that synod will remember the advice 2009 when reviewing this transition plan.