Some members of the Pastoral Transition Committee
Some members of the Pastoral Transition Committee

Committee Members

To send a note to an individual member please click/tap on his or her name.

Mark Topazian, chair
Brad Anderson
Jim Baber
Max Broadwater
Harold Burden
Ben Creo
Hannah Lindeman
Marielle Merry
Carla Nelson
Shalini Prabhakar
Jessica Pridie
Justin Van Dalen
Jann Wright

Welcome! Our entire Pastoral Transition Committee (PTC) wants you to stay informed about the senior pastor transition process, and we would love to hear your insights and ideas.

Below the photo you’ll find links for sending an email, either to an individual committee member or to the entire committee all at once. We will do our best to respond in a timely manner.  Further down the page you’ll find recent transition news and a section of expandable boxes containing all of our previous communications to the congregation.

We covet your prayers. There are many transition matters to pray about: gratitude for the long and marvelous ministry of John and Gretchen Steer, wisdom for our committee and the Elder Board, unity of our congregation, and God’s guidance of the transition process, to name a few.  Thank you for praying!


Updates will be posted in the collapsable sections, below. The most recent update will always be on top. Check back often as updates will be posted on a regular basis.

Prayer Requests from the Pastoral Transition Committee

1. John and Gretchen Steer
2. New pastor and family
3. Congregation / church family

4. Pastors and staff
5. Church unity
6. God’s will be done
7. Guidance for search firm

8. Transition committee
9. Rochester community
10. Future

Recent News

September 4, 2018


As we begin the process of searching for our next senior pastor, the Autumn Ridge Church Pastoral Transition Committee invites you to attend upcoming Focus Group Discussions. We need your ideas and insights!   You can attend on any of the following dates:

  • Saturday, September 8,  6:45 p.m.,  Upper Room
  • Sunday, September 9, 9:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., Common Grounds Cafe
  • Saturday, September 15,  6:45 p.m., Upper Room
  • Sunday, September 16, 9:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., Common Grounds Cafe

We will be discussing three questions:

  1. What, from your perspective, are three keys ways we should change to be more effective as a church? Please explain.

  2. What, from your perspective, are three key ways we should not change? Please explain.

  3. As we enter our next season of ministry, what are the top three qualities we should be looking for in our next senior pastor (that will help us as a congregation meet our future challenges)?

We look forward to hearing from you!

Recent Previous Communications

Agora Search Group

Autumn Ridge Church is excited to announce that we have selected, through the Pastoral Transition Committee, the firm AGORA Search Group to help find and hire our next senior pastor. Our goal is to work in partnership with AGORA to find candidates to fill this position.

AGORA will build a relationship with our church so they can meet our specific needs. They believe that the church’s search committee will bring an intimate knowledge of the church, while AGORA will provide the reach needed to find a pastor through their many years of recruiting and networking. We know many of you may be asking what does AGORA do?

Here is AGORA’s process:

  1. AGORA will help us to define the needs of the church by meeting with staff, the search committee, and utilizing information gained from focus groups. As they learn the history and story of the church they will create a unique description for the position of senior pastor.
  2. AGORA will advertise the position, contact potential candidates, initiate comprehensive interviews, conduct a thorough referencing process, and then conduct face to face visits with final candidates.
  3. After these visits AGORA will present the final candidates to the Search Committee and Elders and organize a weekend for final candidates to visit the church.
  4. AGORA will then assist the Search Committee and Elders with final recommendations, presenting the candidate to the church for a vote, and extending an offer to the final candidate. They will also help the church through the process of helping the pastor get off to a good start and will follow up with the church to make sure the transition is going well.

The Pastoral Transition Committee chose AGORA because they are dedicated to finding the best fit for our church and gaining a deep and insightful understanding of our precise needs. We also value their many years of ministry experience. We believe they will work hard to find the best possible candidates for our senior pastor position.

We are excited to continue the search for our next senior pastor with the help of AGORA. If you have any questions, please direct them to the Pastoral Transition Committee at

On the weekend of June 2-3 Pastor Steer interviewed a member of the Pastoral Transition Committee (PTC), Brad Anderson, about what the PTC has been working on for the past couple of years and what the near-term future looks like in the transition process.

This past weekend, Pastor John Steer announced his plan to step down as Senior Pastor of Autumn Ridge Church in January, 2019.  You can view his announcement and comments from Jay Maier, our Elder Board Chair, by clicking on the video, above.  For nearly 30 years, John has led Autumn Ridge Church (formerly First Baptist) by God’s grace through a period of spiritual and physical growth. We have been incredibly blessed by John and Gretchen’s ministry.  Pastor Steer is the only ARC Senior Pastor that most of us have known.

A few years ago, the Pastor Transition Committee was formed in preparation for this milestone in our church history. In an effort to ease Autumn Ridge through this process we have studied transition models, networked with church leaders outside Rochester, and interviewed professional search firms that specialize in Senior Pastor searches.  Most importantly, however, we have prayed. We have prayed for John and Gretchen, we have prayed for you, our church body, and we have prayed for wisdom as we enter this process. We now invite you to join us in purposeful prayer as we seek the God who holds our future and empowers our unchanging mission, which is to make disciples of Jesus Christ who love God and serve people.

Over the next eight months we will make time as a church to celebrate the ministry of John and Gretchen and the impact they have had on us.  Further information on these events, as well as future updates from the Pastoral Transition Committee, will be posted on this page and in other church wide communications.  We are interested in your comments and insights.  One easy way to contact us is by email, sent to:

God is faithful, and we look forward to what He has in store for us in the days ahead.

Together in Christ,

Members of the Senior Pastor Transition Committee:

Mark Topazian, chair, Brad Anderson, Jim Baber, Max Broadwater, Harold Burden, Ben Creo, Marielle Merry, Carla Nelson, Shalini Prabhakar, Jessica Pridie, Justin Van Dalen, Pat Wester, Jann Wright

Networking 2.0

The Pastor Transition Committee has been tasked with preparing Autumn Ridge for a transition in senior pastor leadership at some point in the future.  Most churches of our size develop a plan for orderly transition as a matter of good stewardship.

While we are not currently conducting a pastoral search (Pastor Steer has not set a transition date), it is prudent to establish a framework for transition well in advance.  In our previous update (August 2017), we discussed the value of networking, the people with whom we have networked, and what we have learned so far.

We are continuing our networking process by examining the resources that professional search firms can offer to the church.  We’ve identified firms that specialize in senior pastor searches and have interviewed them.  In taking these steps we have narrowed the list of firms to consider when the time comes to begin a search.  Search firms could provide resources to the church such as:

  • Access to an extensive national network of candidates
  • Experience in identifying candidates that fit our church culture
  • Detailed vetting of potential candidates
  • Assistance in the on-boarding process for a new pastor, making sure they get off to a good start

Please continue to be in prayer for us as we seek the Lord’s guidance for our church in the months and years ahead.  We especially value your prayers for us.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact any member of the Pastor Transition Committee listed below, or a member of the Elder Board.

Mark Topazian (Chair), Jim Baber, Ben Creo, Justin Van Dalen, Brad Anderson, Marielle Merry, Carla Nelson, Max Broadwater, Harold Burden, Shalini Prabhakar, Jann Wright

The Value of Networking

In recent months, the Pastoral Transition Commi ee (PTC), in collaboration with the Elder Board, has invited a variety of individuals to the church as part of a networking strategy. Some have preached from the pulpit, while others have simply met with the Commi ee and Elders. Pastor John Steer has indicated that he will, at some point, step down as senior pastor (he has not set a speci c date). The PTC would like to explain why we are networking, who we have brought in, and what we have learned.


As Pastor Steer mentioned when introducing one of the recent speakers, networking is particularly important for ARC because we are not part of a church denomination with a built-in contact base from which we can identify potential pastoral candidates. In addition, a church of our size requires unique talents, so it will be important to utilize the wisdom and network of other experienced church leaders.


The PTC has met with Leith Anderson (former Senior Pastor at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie and President of the National Association of Evangelicals), Greg Scharf (Chair of the Pastoral Theology Department at Trinity Seminary), Jason Strand (one of the lead preaching pastors at Eagle Brook Church in the Twin Cities), and Rustin Rossello (Pastor at Sco sdale, Arizona Bible Church). They have all provided valuable insights into the transition process.

What have we learned?

  • Our guests have told us that Autumn Ridge will be an a ractive opportunity for future candidates. Our strengths include our people, our worship services, our Biblical focus, and ministries that function without the direct oversight of the senior pastor.
  • It is more important to plan the process for succession than to focus on se ing a date.

We have been reminded that prayer – as always – will be essential as we seek God’s guidance for the future.

Please contact any member of the Pastoral Transition Commi ee, listed below, or members of the Elder Board if you have any questions.

Mark Topazian (Chair), Brad Anderson, Jim Baber, Tom Besch, Max Broadwater, Harold Burden, Marielle Merry, Carla Nelson, Shalini Prabhakar, Jessica Pridie, Justin Van Dalen, Jann Wright

The e-mail address for the Pastoral Transition Committee is

The e-mail address for the Elder Board is

This content also appeared in the October 2017 edition of the ARC Magazine.

The Pastoral Transition Committee has selected AGORA Search Group to conduct the search for our next senior pastor. Our contract with them was signed this past month. We look forward to working with their team to find the pastor God has already chosen to lead our church.