“Succession = The intentional process of the transfer of leadership, power and authority from one directional leader to another.”
At the end of December of this year, Pastor John Hampton will be stepping aside as the Lead Pastor of Journey Christian Church and Pastor Dustin Aagaard will be become the next Lead Pastor of Journey starting on January 1, 2023.
This webpage is all about telling the story of how we got here. From the timeline of how this came about, to the FAQ’s and their answers, to the Sunday messages we are sharing with our congregation on the weekends of May 15 and 22, this is the place where you can get all of your questions answered about Journey’s succession process.
A Note from Pastor John
Over the last several years, I’ve read many books on the subject of succession; I’ve listened to numerous podcasts, read every article I came across, and had many discussions with leaders who have transitioned very well and some not well at all. Wise people learn not only from their mistakes, but from the mistakes of others…and there are some major mistakes that have been made by many pastors of what were once large and thriving ministries that I wanted to avoid personally and for Journey to avoid corporately. I even attended an outgoing lead pastor conference where all the attendees had two things in common: 1) all of us would soon be stepping aside in our role and 2) we all wanted to do it in a healthy, Christ-honoring way.
That’s my heart’s desire and highest goal as we go through this process: to finish strong and to complete a seamless handoff to my dear brother, my co-laborer in Christ and our next Lead Pastor, Dustin Aagaard. If you love and support Pastor Dustin the way that you have loved and supported me over these last 12 years, I believe God will use him to lead Journey to places we’ve never been, reach people we’ve never reached, and witness God do things we’ve never seen.
I’m so grateful that I got to run with all my heart, soul and strength as Lead Pastor for this season at Journey. These years have been the most gratifying period of my ministry and this fall, I will have been the pastor of Journey longer than any other church I have pastored and that is exactly how and where I want to finish in the lead role of a local church.
Still loving the Journey,
A Note from Pastor Dustin
TJ and I are honored, humbled, and excited to be part of the Journey family in this new role. Journey has become our home and has grown our faith in some of the most formative years as a family.
In 2018, not long after I came on staff as the Family Pastor, God began to whisper to both TJ and me that 1) He was calling us to remain at Journey and 2) He was calling me to explore becoming the next Lead Pastor at Journey. This is important because we felt that our primary calling was to serve Journey in whatever capacity He placed us in. Meaning, I was not planning to leave Journey to explore a Lead Pastor role. Our hearts and our calling were and still are at Journey Christian Church.
As Pastor John, the Elders, and I began to walk through this process, there was a sweet spirit of unity and mutual honoring. Pastor John has honored and blessed me every step of the way. The Elders have honored Pastor John and me every step of the way. I hope to follow their example and honor Pastor John and the Elders throughout this process and beyond.
In awe of God and His kindness, I am reminded of the words from Isaiah 55:8, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts and my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”
Leading voices on succession have said that a poor transition can cost a church one year’s annual budget and three-to-five years of setbacks. Pastor John has made himself an expert in successions to ensure Journey has the healthiest transition possible.
I told TJ, “It feels like I won the lottery.” But it’s more like Pastor John had the winning lottery ticket and handed it to me. Professionally speaking, nobody has sacrificed more for me than Pastor John. His humility, generosity, selflessness, and heart to pour into me and mentor me these past several years have been filled with marking moments that I will never forget.
From the very beginning of the succession conversation, I felt like God gave me two thoughts to embrace:
1) Both the calling and the timing belong to the Lord.
2) I need to be patient but ready.
The last thing I wanted to do was either rush Pastor John or quench the spirit.
Journey has been one of the healthiest churches I have ever been part of. My heart is not to change that but to simply bring a fresh vision to the incredible foundation that Pastor John and Journey have created. I am passionate about and committed to always making sure that Journey is a place where everybody’s welcome, nobody’s perfect, and through Jesus, anything’s possible.
As always, I am loving the Journey!
A Note from Randy Scoggins, Elder Chairman
I well recall that evening, in late 2018, when Pastor John shared with the Elder team his vision of Dustin’s future here at Journey. At that time, Dustin had been part of the Journey family for about a year, and all of us had already sensed something special about this young man and his family. In the 3 ½ years that have followed, the Elder team has spent considerable time in prayer and discussion, asking for God’s guidance, blessing, and assurance that this is, indeed, His plan for John, Melinda, Dustin, TJ, and Journey Christian Church.
During that time, we have sought counsel from a number of prominent pastors, leaders, and professional organizations, within the Christian Church community, that have either personally experienced or specialize in pastoral succession. We have read, extensively, on successful pastoral transitions, (and some that weren’t successful) and have had numerous discussions within the Elder team. With our normal Elder rotation, a total of 13 different Elders, and three different Elder chairs have been involved in this process. To the man, and without reservation, all of us have continued to strongly feel God’s blessing on this transition and He has, most assuredly, called Dustin Aagaard to be the next Lead Pastor here at Journey.
As Pastor John outlined, in early 2021, as we grew closer to making a final decision, we spent considerable time with Dustin and his family. We were moved, again, by just how much Dustin loves Jesus with all his heart. His personal daily walk with God is evidenced in more ways than I could express. He has sincere humility and a true servant’s heart. He always puts God, his family, and others ahead of himself. He possesses boundless energy and continually strives for excellence which is contagious to those around him. He leads with love and by example.
We’ve also learned what a smart, strong, and capable woman TJ is and how committed she is in her own walk with Jesus! Her love and devotion to Dustin & her family and her support of his call to be the Lead Pastor at Journey is strong and unwavering! And the Aagaard children are a delight and joy to be around. It’s crystal clear that Riley, Callie Joy, and Darby are strong in their own walk with God. When you are around them, you can literally feel the love they have for God, for each other, and for their parents. There is no question that God is at the center of the Aagaard household.
It has been and continues to be my honor to serve with Pastor John. God has blessed his 42-year ministry abundantly and continues to bless it. This past Easter Sunday was a shining example of that! In my view, he is still at the top of his game and has much more in his pastoral gas tank.
For those reasons, and many more, there is a lump in my throat and a sadness to see this season of his ministry coming to a close.
In acknowledging that, this is also an exciting time for John and Melinda! I have no doubt that God has many wonderful things in store for them as they move into the next season of their lives. The flexibility and freedom they will have to continue to serve God while having more time for each other, and their family, is a great blessing!
And for Dustin, TJ, their family, and all of us at Journey, I am convinced that what God has in store, in the coming years, will be nothing short of supernatural! I am expecting things at Journey that we have not even imagined!
I speak for all the Elders, past and present, when I tell you we are excited, beyond measure, to see and experience God’s outpouring on Journey in the days ahead!
“Achievement comes to someone when he is able to do great things for himself. Success comes when he empowers followers to do great things with him. Significance comes when he develops leaders to do great things for him. But a legacy is created only when a person puts his organization into the position to do great things without him.” –John Maxwell
What is NOT changing:
- Our mission isn’t changing. Our mission will continue to be making more and deeper disciples of Jesus who love God, love people and serve the world.
- Our core beliefs and values won’t change. We will have no book but the Bible; no creed but Christ and wear no other name than the divine name. We also realize we are not the only Christians, but we do desire to be Christians only.
- Our desire to be a place where everybody’s welcome, nobody’s perfect, and through Jesus anything’s possible will not change.
Catch up on the “Transition Talks” messages from May 15th & 22nd and the Midweek Conversations from May 18th & 25th.
Frequently Asked Questions about Journey’s Succession Plan
How did we get here?
Pastor John has been seriously studying pastoral leadership succession models for several years now. He realized at some point in the future, he would step aside as the Lead Pastor of Journey, and he wanted to do his best to prepare himself, his wife and Journey for that important transition. Journey is a large, multi-generational, multi-ethnic, and multi-campus church. Searching and preparing for our next Lead Pastor is and should be a well thought through process that is committed to finding God’s will for Journey’s future as well as defining what new assignments God may have for Pastor John.
As Pastor John has said, “I love Journey too much and care too much about its future to do something this impactful haphazardly, half-heartedly or hurriedly.”
What is succession?
One of the leading writers and researchers on pastoral succession is Dave Travis. He gives this definition to the process of succession: Succession = The intentional process of the transfer of leadership, power and authority from one directional leader to another. The reality is every pastor is ultimately an interim pastor, occupying their chairs for a season and then handing it off to someone from the next generation who will hopefully love it as much and take it even further than the previous leader could.
How is Journey’s Lead Pastor selected?
Journey’s local church Constitution and By-laws designate the Elders as the representative group of the congregation charged with vetting, interviewing, and calling a Lead Pastor. The Elders selected Pastor John to be Journey’s Lead Pastor in 2010. Pastor John initiated this succession plan and recommended Pastor Dustin, but it is the Elders who prayerfully, carefully, and with great due diligence, extended the call to Pastor Dustin to be Journey’s next Lead Pastor when Pastor John is ready to step aside.
How was the rest of the staff engaged in this process?
Pastor John has kept the Pastors and Directors of Journey’s ministry fully informed throughout this process. From the inception of his succession plan to the selection of Pastor Dustin as Journey’s next Lead Pastor, to the timeline of his eventual stepping out of the Lead Pastor role, he has communicated in transparent and timely forums about the succession process to those entrusted with leading Journey’s ministries.
What does this mean for our Lake County campus?
Since Journey Christian Church is one church in multiple locations, succession does not change anything for our Lake County campus. In fact, Pastor Dustin, along with our new Executive Pastor, Kevin Monahan, both have extensive experience in a successful multisite ministry and are competently equipped to not only encourage the full redemptive potential of our Lake County campus under Pastor Russell Cushman’s leadership, but to dream, develop and deploy plans for future Journey campuses and locations.
Will Pastor John have a role at Journey after the succession?
Pastor John said this during his succession announcement message on May 15: “Journey is and will continue to be mine and Melinda’s church home. Paul said to the Thessalonians that they were so dear to him, that he not only shared the gospel with them, but his life. That’s how Melinda and I feel about Journey. We have shared not only what I believe are my best leadership years with you, but we have shared the joys and sorrows, the blessings and the burdens of our lives, with you; and you have accepted us and loved us for who we are as John and Melinda, and not just as your pastor and pastor’s wife.
That being said, it is wise and healthy for me and Melinda, for Pastor Dustin and TJ, and for Journey as a whole to have a defined period of separation for a season. I will be away from Journey in all capacities for a 12-month period starting in early 2023.”
Pastor John will return in 2024 as Pastor Emeritus of Journey. Pastor John, Pastor Dustin and the Elders have agreed that he will serve in a limited and defined pastoral role under the leadership of Pastor Dustin.
What are the financial implications of this succession to Pastor John, Pastor Dustin and Journey?
Part of every successful succession involves wise financial planning. One of the job products of the Elders is to set a fair compensation package for the Lead Pastor. The Elders and Pastor John have agreed to a financial package as he exits the Lead Pastor role that honors not only his 12 years of leading Journey well but also recognizes his 42 years as a faithful preacher and pastor to the congregations he has served in the past. The agreement also reflects Pastor John’s future contributions to Journey over the next several years.
Likewise, the Elders will set a fair compensation package for Pastor Dustin as our new Lead Pastor according to his responsibilities and experience.
What will happen between now and succession?
Pastor John and Pastor Dustin will continue to share the preaching and leadership responsibilities of Journey together as they have over the last two years until the end of December 2022. Pastor Dustin has already been providing leadership to our pastoral and ministry staff, as well as increasing the number of times he preaches. He has also been attending and participating in Elders meetings for the past two years, understanding what leadership entails as the Lead Pastor and building trust that he is God’s man to be Journey’s next Lead Pastor. Pastor John will continue to mentor, work alongside, and remain focused on the process of a seamless transition to Pastor Dustin through the rest of this year.
What are we asking of the Journey congregation?
This is a rare and unique moment for Journey Christian Church. This is the first time in Journey’s 53-year history that a succession plan for the Lead Pastor has been implemented. Please pray for God’s hand upon this special succession season. Pray for guidance, wisdom and strength for Pastor John to finish well as our Lead Pastor. Pray for Melinda as she and Pastor John enter this new chapter of life together. Pray for continued favor and the Lord’s anointing upon Pastor Dustin and our pastoral leadership team. Pray for fresh vision, continued unity, extraordinary commitment, and faithful dedication to be a part of all that God is calling Journey to be in the future. Pray for Pastor Dustin’s wife, TJ, and three children, Riley, Callie Joy and Darby, as they love and support Pastor Dustin in his significant new role as Journey’s Lead Pastor. Pray that Pastor Dustin may continue to realize that his marriage and homelife are his loudest gospel message. Pray for our Elder team to continue to shepherd the Journey flock with wisdom, compassion and clarity for this important and exciting season ahead of us.