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

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.

Previous Communications

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.

Autumn Ridge is coming to a crucial ministry milestone: senior pastor transition. No date is set for John’s retirement, but this is a major event in the life of any church. The elders will be spending a lot of time planning and executing this transition. When a pastor is loved and respected by his congregation, a poor transition to a new pastor can devastate a church. Taking a proactive approach, over a year ago the elders put a committee together to begin the planning.

This is an excerpt of an ministry update from the Elder Board to the congregation. It originally appeared in the March 2016 ARC Magazine.

Continuity and Planning for Future Transition

Earlier this year, I invited the former chairman of Wooddale Church in Minneapolis to meet with the elder board and Pastor John Steer about senior pastor transition, as Wooddale recently went through such a transition. It was very helpful to have Pastor John participate in the discussion, as he had also discussed the topic with Leith Anderson, the former senior pastor at Wooddale. One key recommendation from Wooddale and from several books on this subject is to have a senior pastor transition plan in place years ahead of when the transition actually occurs, or in the case of an emergency. Accordingly, the elder board recently formed a senior pastor transition committee to help the church develop a strategic plan for pastoral transition.

The committee members are: Mark Topazian(chair), Jim Baber, Tom Besch, Max Broadwater, Harold Burden,Carla Nelson, Shalini Prabhakar, Pat Wester, Jann Wright, and Brad Anderson.

As we all know, John Steer is an outstanding senior pastor, and we hope that his retirement from ARC is many years away. We do NOT expect a change in our senior pastor any time soon!

We do,however, think it is prudent to develop a plan so that whenthetransition comes, we will be well prepared.

Serving together in Christ,
Brad Anderson
Elder Board Chair

This article originally appeared in the December 2014 ARC Magazine