The idea started as a friendship between William Rudd (D.Min. ’00) and a local pastor. Rudd was introduced to John Kenny, pastor of First Reformed Church in Holland, Mich., by mutual friend Scott Bekins. Bekins recognized that as a solo pastor with no full-time pastoral staff, Kenny could use support from a retired pastor like Rudd.

“Pastoral ministry is overwhelming,” Rudd said. A pastor for over 50 years, Rudd is now an emeritus pastor at Calvary Church in Muskegon, Mich. His partnership with Kenny became a friendship, and with the encouragement and partnership with businessman Scott Bekins, their goal became a ministry—to pair solo pastors with retired ones and create a network of support.

Pastor Partner was created to do just that. The project-based partnerships typically last one year and are formed to provide solo pastors with additional time and resources to focus on other areas of the church such as outreach. This also enables these churches to seek permanent additions for pastoral staff.

Although they are leaders of their congregation, Rudd says that pastors need “someone to give them a break.” This gives pastors the time and headspace to launch other projects. In the case of Kenny, he was able to launch a pre-marital ministry to bring young couples into the church as well as other strategic initiatives while Rudd provided preaching and other ministry assistance.

Jennifer Nutter (B.S. ’03,) an administrative assistant at Bekins Appliances, has helped Rudd, Bekins and Kenny launch Pastor Partner by increasing their online visibility and creating a website. In the midst of COVID-19, having that presence online and on social media has proven critical.

“More churches are moving online now,” Nutter said. “They aren’t necessarily thinking about Pastor Partners right now since they are making plans for how to reopen, but we are here for them when they do.”

Before the COVID-19 cancellations began, Rudd had just started a part-time interim pastorate. They are now determining when and how to reopen, as many churches are. He had hoped to have Pastor Partners present for this past spring’s Talking Points event, which focused on pastoral well-being, but closures and cancellations have halted new activity for the ministry.

However, plenty of resources are available on their website for free.

“Any pastor who is remotely interested can take a look at our website,” Rudd said. “We would love to come alongside solo pastors. It’s greatly beneficial for everyone.”

To contact Rudd about a pastoral partnership or check out resources, visit pastorpartner.org.