2015 Spring President's Convocation

2015 Spring President's Convocation from Golden Gate Baptist on Vimeo.

Ministry leaders are called to lead change, which is often difficult for the people going through those changes, said Jeff Iorg, President of Golden Gate Seminary, in a convocation address on Feb. 2, 2015.

There is a key difference between change and transition, said Iorg. Change is the new set of facts – new locations, responsibilities, and procedures. Transition is the emotional and spiritual process people work through to adjust to change. “The biggest mistake ministry leaders make during major change is confusing change with transition,” said Iorg. “Because change is painful, as a ministry leader, you are responsible to lead people through transition during major change in your future ministry settings,” he continued

Iorg preached from Acts 20:17-38, using Paul’s announcement of imminent changes in his relationship with the church in Ephesus to illustrate how to interpret, mitigate, and manage change processes in ministry. In his application, he said students have a unique opportunity to learn about leadership in major change by observing how the school is proceeding through the relocation process of its primary campus to Ontario, CA.

In the passage, Paul believed God led him to leave Ephesus and the elders of the Ephesian church were now being called to take full leadership responsibility for their church. Iorg pointed out the importance of discerning God’s will through supernatural circumstances, though great care must be taken to avoid misinterpretation to validate only what we hope should happen.

“There are five clear ways God has intervened to confirm we are following his direction in this relocation,” Iorg said.

First, the school received governmental approval for the conditional use permit for the Ontario campus several weeks ahead of schedule, despite the often slow-process of property development in California.

Second, there has been virtually no opposition to the relocation from constituents.

Third, a special gift of $850,000 for church planting scholarships was recently given to the school by a first-time donor after our initial relocation announcement.

Fourth, enrollment continues to hold steady. Though there has been a slight drop at the Northern California Campus, the rest of the system has balanced this with offsetting growth.

Fifth, a church donated land valued at $2.9 million for the new Bay Area Campus in Fremont, CA, which is due to open in fall 2016.

In light of the changes the Seminary is facing, Iorg described ways students can learn to lead in spite of and because of painful change. “From the beginning of our change process, we have implemented strategies to help manage the transition process – your emotional and spiritual response to the change – as well as implement the organizational changes we are making,” Iorg said.

He continued, “While we can’t eliminate the grief associated with transition through major change, we can provide a framework for processing it.” Iorg listed the ways Golden Gate Seminary has been dealing with the transition, including accurate communication of time-sensitive topics, personal attention from executive leaders for all staff members, generous severance and continuance policies, customized graduation paths for students, and transparent dialogue sessions with faculty, staff, and students.

Iorg concluded the convocation by reiterating an earlier statement about the difficulty of the phase of the relocation the school is currently in. “The middle of any transition is the toughest part. We are now moving through that phase,” he said.

The complete message is available in manuscript form here.

Tyler Sanders is coordinator of communications for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.