Last week, in response to a growing need across the country, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary launched The Transitional Pastor, a one-week intensive course that trains pastors to lead churches through a change in leadership.
The graduate-level course, catalogued as PLED 997, was adapted from a three-day seminar taught by LifeWay — a division of the Southern Baptist Convention — that licensed the curriculum to Liberty.
According to instructor Don Hicks, Liberty is the first seminary or college to have such a course that is uniquely SBC and deals specifically with the polity of that organization.
“It is a great tool, and I felt called to this area to help,” said Hicks, who is a transitional pastor and a Liberty adjunct professor in Religion.
The course focuses on the role of the short-term pastor/consultant who leads a church during the uncertain period between the former and future pastor, which typically lasts 12 to 18 months. “It’s kind of like John the Baptist … preparing the way,” Hicks said.
The training is an effective solution to deal with forced termination of ministers and destructive church conflict, he said. “The transitional pastor is trying to help them with their conflictual situations and to evaluate their church and help bring healing and direction and encouragement for the future.”
An entire day focused on conflict resolution, “which is seven hours more than most seminaries provide in a degree program,” said Hicks.
As one of about 700 LifeWay-certified transitional pastors in the country, Hicks is part of LifeWay’s initiative to decentralize the training and is now a national trainer on the subject. “Our goal is to train 1,000 transitional pastors over the next five years,” Hicks said.
Along with Hicks, Dr. Dave Earley, who chairs the Department of Pastoral Leadership and Church Planting at the seminary, taught sessions on spiritual warfare and church health.
The class attracted 18 students from as far as Los Angeles and Thailand. “That is pretty good for an intensive that is an elective,” said Hicks. “It is not required for the D.Min or the M.Div.” The average age of attendees was 44, Hicks estimated, with about 18 years of pastoral experience.