In our worship service on February 7, 2021, I (Senior Pastor Ben Hoerr) shared a message on the significance of seasons—based on Ecclesiastes 3—where I encouraged us to think of seasons of birthing, nurturing, and balancing as a helpful framework for understanding God’s work in our lives.

I used this occasion to inform our church family about an upcoming season of birthing a new treasure of leadership transition for The Vineyard Church—Peoria. It is with profound and mixed emotions we’re announcing that sometime later this fall, Tina and I will be retiring from pastoring this church and we will enter a new season of life, calling, and ministry!

  • We aren’t moving to Denver or Madison (where our children and grandchildren live)!
  • We plan to stay right here rooted in Peoria!
  • We plan to continue worshiping at The Vineyard Church where we will continue to serve as Community Group Leaders.
  • We plan to remain deeply connected to you, our friends that we love and care for.
For context, in 2015, I thought that the Lord whispered something to me about 2020 being significant because it represented the completion of a 40-year pastoral ministry.  I thought, “Well, 20/20 would be a perfect vision.”  You see, I’ve always felt the number 40 carries extraordinary meaning through the entire bible and life. A 40-something time period—whether days, months, or years—very often represents the completion of a period of testing, trial, or probation . . . and ends with a season of revival or renewal.

The year 2020 would have been our 40th year. But when Covid-19 hit in early last spring, I simply told the Lord that I wanted to stay at the helm of leadership to navigate our church family through the challenges that were certain to follow. And the year proved difficult in many ways, didn’t it?

However, now that a readily available vaccine is on the imminent horizon, with a gradual return to a new (but different) normal to follow, Tina and I feel—after a lengthy discernment process and prayerful engagement with our Board of Directors and others—that it’s time to do what we regularly instruct all of you to do: follow Jesus—that is, hear from him and do our best to obey what he tells us. And in the same ways that we have historically heard and discerned the Lord’s voice, we are now hearing him direct us to follow him into a transition of our life calling.

We don’t know for certainty what this next, new season will include. The Lord hasn’t handed us an envelope with his specific instructions yet, so we’re continuing to simply trust him for the future. We want to say “Yes” to his invitation into this new season of our life calling . . . in the same ways we said “Yes” when we first left Peoria in 1979 to move to Champaign and when we left Champaign in 2011 to return here, not fully knowing in either case what awaited on the other side of obedience.

Tina really enjoys her job and plans to continue working as an Administrative Assistant at Caterpillar for a number of years. I plan to rest, write, continue serving our Vineyard movement as an Area Leader overseeing other churches, and I’ll continue to coach and mentor younger pastors. We both desire to leverage our experience and gifts to impact our community in positive ways for the Kingdom of God through volunteering in ways that our schedule has previously prevented.

Here’s a very brief outline of our church’s plan for the immediate future:

  • We will assemble a Pastoral Search Team whose responsibilities will include:
    • Crafting and posting the ministry opportunity on the VineyardUSA Job Board
    • Receiving applications from this national search for a new, younger pastor or couple
    • Conducting interviews with qualified candidates
    • Hosting on-site “meet and greets” with the entire church family that will provide opportunities for each of you to get to know the candidates, ask questions, listen to their preaching, and hear their story
  • Eventually, with the help of the Holy Spirit, in concert with the Board of Directors, we will discern the person/couple God has ordained to lead our church family!
Our search will embrace several Guiding Principles, believing that pastoral leadership emerges at intersection of:
  • Christ-like Character—we are certainly not expecting perfection, but someone growing in maturity
  • Calling—to this church, this community, and the larger VineyardUSA movement
  • Competency—spiritual and natural gifts for pastoring and previous pastoral experience on a Vineyard staff
  • Chemistry—a vibrant connection with us
We are committed to an open process marked by transparency and integrity. Therefore, you should feel free to ask questions, share your insights or concerns, etc.

Tina and I will continue serving as your pastors as long as the process is still unfolding. Ideally, the new pastors would be selected and move sometime this mid-late summer or early fall.

Now in every family constellation—whether you’re single, single again, widowed, a single parent, parents with young children or with teens, couples raising grand-kids, or empty-nesters—there are seasons of change.

  • When singles get married, everything changes, right?
  • When couples have their first child, their entire world is revolutionized.
  • When the teenagers leave home to go off to school, work, or the armed forces, things get quiet.
  • When a spouse passes, it feels like our whole world will never be same.
Each of these transitions is marked by two things: First, there’s the grief of loss. We no longer enjoy the unique circumstances and stage of life and development we once had. In this sense, Tina and I are acutely aware that this new season for our church family will be accompanied by the grief of loss. We will no longer be your pastors. Without self-aggrandizing, we have worked our ways into each other’s’ hearts and lives, haven’t we? You are the people with whom we have journeyed through the trials and joys of life. So we understand the wide range of emotions, particularly grief, which will wash over all of us in the season of change and transition ahead.

Secondly, family change is also marked by new opportunities and hopefulness. Similarly, this will be a season of new opportunities for our church—new leadership, new (and younger) members coming into our family, new ways to serve, and a time of new influence in our city.

We are confident of God’s unfailing love for our church family. You see, we did not initiate this church plant 10 years ago. It has been God’s idea all along. He simply asked us to be the shepherds. And serving as your pastors has been one of the greatest privileges of our entire lives! But to say it clearly, The Vineyard Church—Peoria has never been Ben and Tina’s church. It is God’s church, and his purposes are far from over. He desires to continue extending his kingdom here, near, and far away through each of us. As we sing in worship: “Greater things are still to be done in this city!”

In closing, Tina and I want to express our sincere appreciation . . . for your friendship and your prayerful, thoughtful, encouraging support for us and our church family . . . over the last decade and in the season of birthing something new that’s ahead in the next year!

I am certain that God, who began the good work within us, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.  (Philippians 1:6)