ministry,
succession,
21M 37S

Episode 38: Father & Son Duo Kelly and Ryland Walter Talk About Succession

January 16, 2018

Episode 38: Father & Son Duo Kelly and Ryland Walter Talk About Succession

Kelly realized ministry is a relay, not a marathon. The key in the relay is passing the baton while you’re running in your peak in order to finish well… enter Ryland. Recorded live at the 2017 Purpose Driven Church Conference.

EPISODE RESOURCES

GO DEEP INTO THE DIMES DROPPED, CONNECT WITH THE SPEAKER, AND CHECK OUT THE LINKS & RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

  1. Facebook: @RockBrookChurch
  2. Instagram: @RockBrookChurch
  3. Rock Brook Church Website: rockbrook.org

OTHER RESOURCES:

  1. Passing the Leadership Baton by Tom Mullins

Episode Quotable

Grab your reading glasses and download the PDF here.

Episode 38 Transcript

Mingo Palacios:

Welcome to the Purpose Driven Church podcast, where we sit down with leaders in and around the church to discuss current trends and challenges, and how the five purposes of the local church matter today more than ever.

Welcome to the Purpose Driven podcast; we’re on location today at the Purpose Driven Conference. Second year after a 10-year hiatus. Today I’m with Kelly and Ryland, who are the current pastor and soon-to-be succeeding pastor, father/son duo. The conversation is going to be all about succession, especially in light of the fact that there are so many churches right on the cusp of the need to succeed. Both terms apply, right?

Kelly Walter:

Yes, exactly.

Mingo Palacios:

Kelly, why don’t you tell us where your church is? Tell us a brief context about the church that you planted, and then let’s talk about the process of succession that you guys have been walking through.

Kelly Walter:

The church is located in Belton, Missouri. We’re a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri, home of the World Champion Kansas City Royals. We planted the church there 20 years ago this month, actually.

Mingo Palacios:

Congratulations.

Kelly Walter:

Twenty years ago I brought 14 people out to a Purpose Driven Church Conference. It was actually over at the Irvine Marriott, didn’t even have it built on the campus yet. I took those 14 people back and we held our first worship service in the park, a shelter house in the park. Had 92 people show up.

Mingo Palacios:

In the park, like outdoor?

Kelly Walter:

Outdoors under a little shelter house, yeah.

Mingo Palacios:

No way! That is awesome.

Kelly Walter:

Yeah. It rained the second week, and we were just amazed that we managed to get through it. But we met in bank basements and community centers and houses and wherever we could find a place to meet.

Mingo Palacios:

You’ve been very nomadic.

Kelly Walter:

Definitely. That first few months, it was really an adventure finding a place to meet.

Mingo Palacios:

I love that.

Kelly Walter:

Then we got settled into a movie theater and the church took hold, started growing. We started adding services and eventually bought some property and built a building. Now we’re 20 years old and we run about 1200 a weekend. We have five services.

Mingo Palacios:

I love that. And you’re in Missouri.

Kelly Walter:

We’re in Missouri, Kansas City.

Mingo Palacios:

Walk me through the process. Did you feel like it was a season that you were entering into? Did the Lord say “it’s time to pass the baton”?

Kelly Walter:

Yes.

Mingo Palacios:

Did Ryland just bug you to death, to the point where it was time to suffice?

Kelly Walter:

[laughs] No.

Mingo Palacios:

Walk me through your succession story, because I think that it’s going to give clues for a lot of people as they’re starting to think of their own narrative of how to walk through succession. If it’s a father/son duo, specifically yours, what were some of the keys that you started to focus in on as you were starting to think of what it was going to look like to pass the baton, pass the torch, bring in the next generation?

Kelly Walter:

For me, when I first started the church it was like Pastor Rick; I wanted to give my whole life to one church and pastor it. I used to tell people in our membership class that my goal was to drop dead at the age of 80 preaching on the platform at our church.

Mingo Palacios:

How noble. That’s very noble of you. [laughs] That’d be one insane altar call, P.S., afterwards. I’m just assuming.

Kelly Walter:

Yeah. [laughs] But I did that because I wanted the church to know that I was committed to it, and also for myself, I wanted to know I’m committed to this church for the rest of my life.

Over time, I began to realize that that really wasn’t a healthy goal for me or even for the church. I had been viewing ministry as a marathon, and the idea was I wanted to give it all I had, run, cross that finish line, and then drop dead.

Mingo Palacios:

The drop dead keeps coming up. [laughs]

Kelly Walter:

Yes. Well, David served God’s purposes in his generation and then he died. I wanted to be faithful to the end. I didn’t want to give up.

But as I began to develop the church and grow the church, I realized that we needed more staff. It should not be a one-man show. It’s not built on me. It’s the Body of Christ; it’s not just me. So over the years I’ve worked very hard to develop staff, develop a team, a concept for ministry.

Then, rather than seeing it as a marathon, I began to see it as a relay.

Mingo Palacios:

That’s good. I like this analogy.

Kelly Walter:

I realized that the key in a relay is you want to pass the baton while you’re still running at your peak.

Mingo Palacios:

This is such a good point to marinate on, because I feel like there are a lot of leaders who run until they feel like “ugh, I’ve got to take my shoes off.” Then they end up passing a declined ministry or a slowing ministry, and then they’re asking the question, “Hey, can you help jumpstart this thing? Can you get this thing back to life?”

Kelly Walter:

And they’re so burnt out they have nothing left to offer. It’s like, “here, take this, I’m outta here.”

Mingo Palacios:

Right. There’s a certain sense of humility that needs to come with – humility, strategy, I would say honesty that comes from knowing where your greatest speed is – when it’s time to pass the baton.

You were thinking in your mind, okay, it’s time to bring up the next generation. I’m sure that didn’t rest solely on Ryland’s shoulders. Who else were you starting to pay into, and how did you identify those people?

Kelly Walter:

First of all, my directors, who would be like elders in the church, were very crucial in introducing this topic. We started thinking about this a couple of years ago.

Mingo Palacios:

So it’s been several years in the making.

Kelly Walter:

Yes. When I turned 60, that was a real wake-up call. You hit those benchmark years in your life where you stop and evaluate. I realized that I really, really wanted to give the Lord a good solid 10 years after that. The Bible says you give threescore and ten; I want to finish well. But I also recognized that for me, finishing well involved passing that baton on to the next generation.

Mingo Palacios:

And doing that well.

Kelly Walter:

Yes.

Mingo Palacios:

You can’t have all these well-to-do seasonal monuments and then make your baton pass mediocre.

Kelly Walter:

Yeah, you don’t want to drop the baton. So we started exploring, looking at possibilities and options, even within our staff, and trying to look at who was the best candidate, who had the best potential for some longevity in ministry. A gifting, God’s anointing. That stuff was very important. A lot of prayer, a lot of examination went into it.

Part of it is my family is very invested in our church. I’ve got another son who’s a staff member. We want to be very sensitive as a family that this isn’t just a given because it’s a family thing. We wanted it to be because the people of the church appreciated it and honored it.

Mingo Palacios:

Now, enter Ryland. Your part of the story is unique because you’ve been in the church, you’ve grown up inside of it, right? I asked you the question, have you been a public figure – not necessarily owning a specific role, but you’ve grown up being seen in the church roughly your whole life.

Ryland Walter:

Yeah, and not so much because of being a pastor’s kid, but more because I’ve been playing in a worship team, been on worship team for the last 17 years. So yeah, there’s been some prominence, but I haven’t been sitting back for years thinking “this is coming.”

Mingo Palacios:

“Baton, baton, baton, baton, baton,” right.

Ryland Walter:

Yeah. This was his thing to give. That would probably be my word to younger guys who are entering this exchange zone and receiving the baton. Just be faithful where you are.

Mingo Palacios:

In your lane.

Ryland Walter:

Yes.

Mingo Palacios:

That’s a really good word.

Ryland Walter:

Be faithful to the little things or whatever you’ve been given, whether that’s playing drums for a season, being worship pastor for a season. Honor your leaders, help them fulfill their vision, help them finish well, and it’s amazing what will happen.

Mingo Palacios:

Tell me this: what were you most nervous about, Kelly? Did you have something that you were nervous about, or did you feel like “I’m plugging away and doing all the right things along the road”? Did you have that confidence inside of you, or were you nervous about something?

Kelly Walter:

No, I don’t think there’s been any fear involved in the process.

Mingo Palacios:

Fearless.

Kelly Walter:

Especially because God was just so in this, and I just really felt like He was working in my heart, preparing me. The conversations would happen at the right time, the right responses. And again, just praying about it, and holding everything loosely. Just recognizing –

Mingo Palacios:

That’s a good word, holding ministry loosely. As the senior leader, I have to assume that’s not an easy thing to do, just hold it loosely. Because it could fall out of your hands.

Kelly Walter:

Oh yeah. It’s like the baton; you’ve got to hold it tightly enough that you don’t drop it. I didn’t want to lose the ministry, I wanted to pass it. So there’s that tension between – but it’s not mine to hold onto. If I try to hand it to him and hang onto it, now we’ve really blown the whole thing.

Mingo Palacios:

Let’s capitalize on this idea, because I know that there are a lot of leaders that feel like when they have their pass moment, they’re off the books. I think that there’s a sense of identity struggle in that. They don’t want to pass even though they’re 60, because they’ve got another 20 in them, they feel like.

Kelly Walter:

Yes.

Mingo Palacios:

What have you been leaning into? What’s been the word that the Lord’s been giving you as now you’re entering into – I’m going to say coach/senior mentor – you’re a father, obviously – but what’s the Lord telling you your specific role is going to be, and how has it shifted from your role all the way up until this point?

Kelly Walter:

Coaching has been something that I have really enjoyed over the years. Even with my staff, my staff are people that came up through the church.

Mingo Palacios:

You didn’t headhunt for your staff.

Kelly Walter:

No, they’re people that I brought out here to conference after conference when they were just lay leaders and guys in the church, and then they became directors and eventually we brought them on staff. There’s been a lot of coaching and training and bringing those guys up that has played a key role in this.

Part of what’s happened over the last couple of years is I’ve gotten more involved with Purpose Driven and Purpose Driven coaching. I’m a regional director.

Mingo Palacios:

That’s actually a good point to bring in. There’s a space for you inside of the Purpose Driven ministries. As a graduating senior pastor, you now get to serve several pastors all across the country.

Kelly Walter:

Yeah, and internationally. We’re doing international training as well.

Ryland Walter:

The PD community has been so essential to this because we’ve even reached out to a pastor that we met coming to Purpose Driven gatherings and conferences, and he became our coach for this mission because he’s been there before us.

Mingo Palacios:

Oh, that’s so perfect.

Ryland Walter:

Coming to the conferences, the content is so amazing. We love it. We’re taking notes, we’re writing down everything.

Mingo Palacios:

Applying it, yeah, absolutely.

Ryland Walter:

But even more than that, this is a family reunion now where we’re seeing people that we’ve been able to help and they’ve helped us.

Kelly Walter:

And over the years that’s been crucial to me. We were a church of 14 when we first came. But we could find other churches here that were 100, 200. Really, they were our models more than Saddleback.

Mingo Palacios:

Yeah, just down the road, right? Another church just down the road.

Kelly Walter:

Yes.

Mingo Palacios:

Now, tell me – I asked Kelly what he was afraid of and he said nothing. Ryland, what fears or what uncertainties would you be willing to share in context to other young leaders in our listening audience as they adopt more responsibility inside the organization that they’re serving faithfully?

Ryland Walter:

I could speak about that for so long.

Mingo Palacios:

We’ll do a series. [laughs]

Ryland Walter:

There we go. One thing I want to echo is our team, our staff, our church – so unified, so wonderful, speaking a lot of wisdom and encouragement and life into this process. We have been so blessed and fortunate with who we get to work with and who we get to be around, doing ministry with.

Mingo Palacios:

Do you feel support from that team to succeed? Or are you nervous about leading well? Or both?

Ryland Walter:

It’s both. I feel the support; that’s amazing. I also see that culture that we’ve created, I see the unity, and I don’t want to mess it up.

Mingo Palacios:

Yeah, you don’t want to be like a funky addition. That’s good.

Ryland Walter:

I think that’s where fear steps in.

Mingo Palacios:

Or just uncertainty. It doesn’t have to be fear. It’s just uncertainty, right?

Ryland Walter:

Yeah. I don’t want to blow this thing. But I also step back and see that Jesus is not nervous about this.

Mingo Palacios:

So good! He’s not.

Ryland Walter:

He is confident about this. He’s not uncomfortable, he’s not uneasy. If we just stay where we’re rooted and those kinds of things, we will succeed.

Mingo Palacios:

Yeah, you will succeed. Guys, this isn’t something that’s been happening and you’re just getting a window into it. You got voted unanimously last week.

Ryland Walter:

Yeah, last Tuesday, a week ago from today.

Mingo Palacios:

Last Tuesday. This is so fresh.

Ryland Walter:

Yeah. Our church doesn’t vote on a lot of things. We don’t have a lot of committee. But this is something in our bylaws that they need to affirm and they vote on, and yeah, it was a 100% unanimous vote from our church members – which I wasn’t expecting. That’s really unheard of.

Mingo Palacios:

You were thinking of a couple, like “man, I really could cross hairs with that person.” [laughs]

Ryland Walter:

But I think, again, that’s the testimony to a long-term, faithful pastor that’s so trusted that when he’s calling the play, they say “okay, we believe in this, we’re behind this.” That’s why, even if maybe a leadership transition is off in the distance, you’ve got to keep building into your team.

Mingo Palacios:

You’re building now. You can’t just wait for the time transition begins because you’ll have nothing to stand on.

Ryland Walter:

Right.

Kelly Walter:

Yes.

Mingo Palacios:

As we close down this interview, thank you so much for our viewers online. We have a ton of people that are here, kind of like a live studio audience.

Ryland Walter:

I want to tell them and tell people on the podcast, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a resource out there that if people are thinking about a leadership transition in any major role within their church or even a senior leadership church – and this is where we got a lot of the language of “passing the baton” and this idea – Passing the Leadership Baton by Tom Mullins. He preached out at Saddleback here about 6 months ago.

Mingo Palacios:

Passing the Leadership Baton.

Kelly Walter:

Yes.

Ryland Walter:

If there’s a leadership transition, if you’re even contemplating that, this is the place to go.

Mingo Palacios:

I want to even say you need to be contemplating that, because nobody leads forever. You don’t want the ministry that you poured your guts into for the last X number of years to stop when you stop.

Kelly Walter:

This transition started when I brought him out here to a Purpose Driven Church Conference when he was 14.

Mingo Palacios:

Yes, I love that. I was joking about when he was born, but you actually said when he was 14. You were anticipating, you were praying, “God, would you plant something that will grow and blossom into our succession plan?”

Kelly Walter:

And it could’ve been any of the other staff leaders, because we were pouring the same things into them as well.

Mingo Palacios:

I love that.

Kelly Walter:

What a tremendous opportunity I have to pass him off to a team that is united and gets it.

Mingo Palacios:

So good. I’m going to ask this for our closing set: as the senior pastor who’s done a tremendous job, your due diligence in anticipating the baton pass – you’re living in the fruit of that labor now as this transition is happening so smoothly – what’s your word to senior leaders who aren’t thinking about succession or are just starting? What’s your word for them?

Kelly Walter:

I think it’s the charge that we’ve been given. Paul told Timothy that the things that he had heard, teach them to others who would receive them well and who would faithfully pass them on to the next. If we’re not building this generational – that’s how we got it. Literally, this baton has come from Paul to Timothy all the way right down to us.

Mingo Palacios:

Yes, thank you for that.

Kelly Walter:

If we’re not doing that, we’re really missing one of the key elements of our job.

Mingo Palacios:

So excellent. Now, as the emerging leader, you gave us a great word about remaining faithful in your lane; do you have anything that you want to add on top of that, just for others who are wondering, “man, is my time ever going to come?” Maybe they’re sitting in a season where there is no pathway. What would you say to a leader that’s looking for a sense of significance today as they’re listening to this recording?

Ryland Walter:

We live in this upwardly mobile society where we feel like even now, our culture tells us that if we’re not moving up, we’re not going anywhere, when Hebrews 13 says “obey your leaders, pray for them, sit under them,” and that we’re called to be faithful in little.

So if you feel like your time isn’t coming, it’s really not your move to step out and push someone out or start grabbing a baton and shaking it so they realize they need to pass it. Let God do that work, and stay faithful. Let Him build in something.

I would also say that if you’re sitting under a leadership or behind a leader that maybe is not what we’ve been able to enjoy, where there’s unity and there’s health – maybe there is something that you’re divisive on or some struggles – David experienced that, and he had to sit under a very tumultuous experience in waiting for his leadership, even after he was anointed, even after it was prophesied over him.

God is working that out. The Holy Spirit can say something to someone in a whisper, in a moment, that will go much deeper than you yelling and screaming and saying it over and over and over again. Rely on God to do that.

Mingo Palacios:

That’s good. I love that. Kelly, you were like boiling – what was going on in your mind? Were you going to say something?

Kelly Walter:

No. [laughs]

Mingo Palacios:

[laughs] I love it. For our live viewers, thank you so much for listening. You were thinking “let’s get out while we’re ahead here”?

Kelly Walter:

Yeah. [laughs]

Mingo Palacios:

Kelly and Ryland, thank you so much for sharing just a small fraction of your story. Here’s what I want to know: if people want to follow along in your unique journey as a church, as a family and as a leadership team, you said that you’re now coaching through the PD network. How do we get a hold of you if people want to follow up with you about maybe their own succession woes, or to start to think about their own succession plan? How can they get a hold of you uniquely, Kelly?

Kelly Walter:

We’re at Rock Brook Church. Our web address is rockbrook.org. If they get on there, they can get our email and contact us. We’d be happy to point them to the people that have helped us.

Mingo Palacios:

I’m assuming that those people are just going to point back to you. That’s what I’m assuming.

For Ryland, I’m assuming you’ve got a social handle, your church has some social handles? What are those, for the listeners?

Ryland Walter:

If you punch in “Rock Brook Church” to anything, we’re going to come up. We’re in Belton, Missouri, suburb of Kansas City. Ryland Walter, that’s my handle on pretty much anything.

Mingo Palacios:

I love it. Thank you guys so much for sharing your story. I anticipate walking the journey with you, because I’m here. We’re in this, and as long as you commit to continuing to show up, if I can get this old bird, this RV that we’re sitting in front of out to Missouri – I’m thankful that you are starting – even though you’ve been in it for a long time; it’s not an overnight ministry story, overnight success story. It didn’t just happen. It’s been years in the making.

This story has been years in the making, so I’m anticipating now that we’ve got a little bit of side-by-side exposure, to see what the Lord does over the next seasons.

Kelly Walter:

There are a lot of chapters yet to be written on this. There really are.

Mingo Palacios:

I love it. Thank you so much, guys. For our live viewers, thank you so much. We will see you during the next segment. For our podcast listeners, thanks for tuning in. We’ll talk to you guys soon.

Leave a Reply

Scroll to top