SOMA’s Pastoral Transition FAQ

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What exactly is changing?

  • After nine years of pastoring SOMA, this summer Marc intends to transition from his role as SOMA’s Planting Pastor to become the full-time Associate Pastor of Mission at First Presbyterian Church (FPC) in Beaver. FPC is SOMA’s mother church, where Marc has also been serving as a pastor part-time for these 9+ years.
    • This transition is pending a congregational vote at FPC in February, and will not go into effect until the summer of this year (2019).
    • While we hope Marc & his family will ultimately be able to enjoy a healthy on-going relationship with our church body, it will not be as our pastor. 
  • SOMA will spend this year journeying through the process of finding a new pastor to join in our unchanging mission to glorify God by introducing people to Jesus Christ here in Beaver Falls.

Are Marc and his family leaving Beaver Falls?

  • No they are not! They will live in the same house, the kids will continue attending Beaver Falls schools, Emily will still serve on the library board, and Marc will maintain his relationships in the city on community boards and organizations. In short, Beaver Falls will still be home for the de Jeu’s, and you’ll see them as neighbors around town.
  • In this way we’re going to be walking through a non-traditional pastoral transition (would you expect anything else from SOMA?). Typically, a pastor leaves a church and community all at once, in what amounts to a complete break. Rather than a complete break, we’re looking ahead to a big shift, and while there will be challenges involved, we also see tremendous opportunity in front of us.

Why is this change happening now? Is something wrong?

  • Not at all – in fact, there’s so much to celebrate!
  • Marc prayerfully came to the decision to make this transition now, considering:
    • SOMA is growing: growing in people, energy, ideas, partnerships, culture, finances, etc. Our leadership is unified and strong. We’re in a good place to take on this change free from the anxiety that often accompanies congregational decline.
    • SOMA is no longer a “new thing”. The gifts it requires to start a church from scratch are different from the gifts needed to help an existing church take its next steps in development. To that end, it makes sense to search for a pastor with the developmental gifting that meets SOMA where we are now.
    • Jesus is the head of the Church, which means Jesus is the head of SOMA. The transition from a planting pastor is uniquely challenging for most churches, and it’s important that we are able/wiling to follow the Holy Spirit into that next season. We are grateful to God for the way he used Marc to help SOMA get started, and at the same time, we know there is a flourishing future without Marc as our pastor.
    • Since Marc isn’t leaving all at once, he’s available to help SOMA navigate the transition time. And since FPC is committed to SOMA’s long-term well-being, they are giving ample time and space for that to happen.
    • After the new pastor arrives, Marc will be available in his role at FPC to serve as a resource to this person in getting to know our church and community.
    • SOMA is committed to the Kingdom of God in the flourishing of Beaver Falls. Since Marc’s family will still make their home in our city, bringing in a new pastor with fresh energy to join that Kingdom work is a net gain for our city.

What’s next for SOMA?

  • As we’ve always tried to do, we see this transition as an opportunity for conversation and connection within our worshiping body. There will undoubtedly be mixed feelings about this change, and our leadership is committed to walking with you through that. Change is hard, and while there is so much good ahead it’s normal and healthy to experience some grief. You can reach out to any of us on the leadership team or to Marc; we’d be honored to talk and pray with you and answer your questions as best we can.
  • We won’t be sitting on our hands in the time between pastors. Christ’s body is full of gifted people and we intend to continue bringing those gifts together for our worship, community, and mission life even as we go through the pastor process search. You and your giftedness are a part of that Kingdom work!
  • Regarding our next steps, we have a few options in front of us:
    • We could seek to hire a Transitional Pastor through our denomination (the EPC). These are pastors trained to work with churches for a set period of time (1-2 years) to prepare the church for the next seasons of its life together.
    • Or we can petition our Presbytery to forgo a Transitional Pastor and instead begin the discerning/search process within the next six months for our new pastor.
    • If we seek a Transitional Pastor, this person could be in place by the summer. If we choose instead to begin the next pastor search process, we would most optimistically expect to have someone here at the end of 2019/beginning of 2020.
  • While we are still working through the specifics of this transition, these are some dates to know:
    • Jan 27th– Marc will share about this change during the worship gathering
    • Feb 10th– Q&A with Marc & the Session/Leadership Team after the congregational meeting, following the worship gathering
    • Feb 18th– Session & Leadership Team finalizes next steps: hiring a transitional pastor or beginning the next pastor search process
    • February – FPC congregational vote to approve Marc as their full-time associate pastor
    • March, April, May – SOMA conversations to solicit input about our search process/next pastor
    • Monthly updates about the transition process

Do we have any ‘outside support’ in this transition?

  • We most definitely do, though we shouldn’t underestimate the gifts God has given us within our church body: we have the Spirit of Christ within us to guide us, a strong leadership and staff team, a gifted worshiping body, and a clear mission/set of values by which we’ve always tried to make decisions.
  • We celebrate what God has gifted to us, and we’re grateful we won’t walk this process alone:
    • FPC Beaver is committed to helping with the specifics of the pastor search process (since they are a 200+ year old church, they’ve done more than a few of these!)
    • Our Presbytery’s Church Development Committee, of which Marc is a member, will serve as a resource to ensure we’re taking the right steps and connecting with strong pastoral candidates who are the right fit for our church and city.

Where do we find a new pastor?

  • Our denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, has a national job posting center where pastors are able to connect with open churches. The Christian Community Development Association has a similar resource. There are several seminaries in Western Pennsylvania, and word-of-mouth travels fast in these circles. We will be looking for someone either already ordained as a Teaching Elder in the EPC, or someone able/willing to become ordained in the EPC. Additionally, we will search for someone uniquely gifted for our mission, vision, and values in the context of Beaver Falls.
  • The Pastoral Search Team will consist of SOMA folks, elected by our mission partners (members). This team will be supported in their search by FPC and the Presbytery’s Church Development Committee. And as we’ve always done, we will be seeking input from our entire worshiping body along the way.

This is an opportunity for us to step into God’s future for our community of faith
When SOMA started in 2010, we chose our name so that we’d always be reminded to identify ourselves first and always as belonging to and following Jesus. So while Marc has been a huge part of SOMA’s story, it’s never been about Marc – what a gift to us now! We all have the opportunity to step up now in prayer, in participation, and to encourage one another forward in our journey to glorify God by introducing people to Jesus Christ here in Beaver Falls.
We’re available for conversation, we’ll be soliciting your prayerful input in the weeks and months to come, and we’ll keep the body updated as the details of our next steps are finalized. We’re honored to serve as Elders & Leadership during this season, and we’re grateful that God’s Spirit guides us forward.

“Now you all are the body of Christ, and each of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27)

In Christ,
SOMA’s Session & Leadership Team
Mike & Dani Brown, Jerryn Carson, Akil Chaney, Anthony Regan, Dave Slebodnik, Dave & Karen Swartzwelder