A Health Handoff: Interview with Ken Morris

For Baptists Today

March 22, 2011

A Healthy Handoff: The Crucial Relationship between Former and Current Pastor



Interview with Ken Morris, Pastor Emeritus, First Baptist Church, West Jefferson, NC

1.  In what ways did you prepare your congregation to love another pastor?


I worked so many years as an associate pastor that it helped me to know how to work with another pastor. I had witnessed a situation where the pastor was not supported by the former pastor. I decided to be gone from the church a lot during the two-year interim period. I took off on weekends. I was ready to retire and do things with my family. I wanted to come to church to play hand bells or sing in the choir, not much else. If I was needed to preach during the interim, I told the congregation to be supportive of the next pastor.

I offered to the search committee that I would take a year off before returning to worship here. They said to keep coming, because they were sure they would hire someone I would get along with.

2.  Did you put boundaries in place for yourself after retirement regarding things such as funerals, weddings and hospital visits?

I had boundaries and I told the congregation about them. I said, “I want to retire and I want to support the new pastor.” Once Michael came, if someone asked me to do a funeral, I would tell them to go through Michael. Then Michael could ask me to do it. If someone was in the hospital, I might drop by, but not as a pastor. I would say, “Michael will take good care of you.” Sometimes Michael would ask me to make a visit with him.

I served as an interim for two churches outside the county during that transition time. I have refused to teach Sunday school and I do not serve on committees.

3.  How did you avoid triangulation? I.e. – congregation members coming to you about a problem at the church or with Michael

We have had no triangulation issues, because I tell everyone how fortunate I am to have Michael as a pastor. Michael invites me to sit in on staff meetings, and I have done that one or two times. I said to Michael, “I need you to pastor me as I grow old,” and he has been my pastor.

4.  How did you leave the church behind?

At age 66, I was ready to go and they knew it. As I said goodbye, the church made a big deal of my leaving. And I made it clear that I was leaving.

5.  How did you settle into a new role once you were not a paid minister?

Doing two paid interims helped. My wife, Judy, and I enjoyed those. For one church, I just preached and led Sunday and Wednesday worship. In the church in Virginia, we stayed weekends. That feeling that I belonged to another church helped me feel that not all my roots were at First Baptist. Filling in elsewhere and being gone is very important.

6. What tips would you pass along to a retiring minister?

I would stress the importance of finding new interests and a new identity. I would say not to be totally wrapped up in being a minister. I would tell them to keep a sense of humor.

7. What is the key to a successful transition?

Michael invited me into his world. He was not protective. The church had already made me pastor emeritus. I had not elevated the pastor’s role, and I wanted others to be able to fill in for me. I told Michael that I would not interfere and even asked him to work me out of the job.

Read the full article A Health Handoff.


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