leadership announcement

A Message from Joel Seymour and the Elders

A Message and Introduction from Johnny and Jess Friesner

frequently asked questions


Our desire is to help our church as much as possible in this transition, which includes clear communication. 

If you have any questions about the transition, please reach out to us

We would also encourage you to write a short encouragement or share your gratitude. 

You can do so by clicking the link above or by emailing the Elders at elders@lancastervineyard.org.

    1. Joel and Kristi have had a sense since Joel’s early 20s that he was called to be a leader of leaders, a pastor of pastors. Over the years this has taken place in informal ways, such as pastors seeking out Joel’s advice and care. It has also been realized in formal ways (leading weekly meetings for pastors in Lancaster, serving as an Area Leader in Vineyard USA, serving as a Regional Leader in Vineyard USA, etc.). They have also been aware that Vineyard USA needed more horsepower to more adequately care for local pastors and churches. 

    2. When Vineyard USA announced a ReOrganization (ReOrg) study, Joel and Kristi sensed they should pray open-handed prayers. The ReOrg study concluded with recommendations for a national team of full-time positions to help the National Director pastor the movement. For the first time in the history of Vineyard USA there would be men and women who wake up with their job and who’s first thought being “how can I care for local pastors?” When Joel and Kristi read the report they knew God was calling Joel to one of these roles either now or in the future. This was confirmed as several people within Vineyard USA leadership, both locally and nationally, encouraged Joel to apply. 

    3. Joel and Kristi included an intercessory team, the elders and the staff in this discernment process. They incorporated tools such as prayer and fasting. They also did an in-depth psychological and emotional assessment with feedback from an independent psychologist. Joel and Kristi determined that God was calling them and that if offered a position Joel should say ‘yes’.

  • Joel will work from Lancaster Ohio and therefore the Seymours are remaining in Lancaster with Lancaster Vineyard as their church home.

  • Joel is slated to begin with Vineyard USA on January 1, 2022. As his new role is to help local churches, Vineyard USA wants to make sure Lancaster Vineyard is cared for during this transition. Therefore, he will be available to help the church as needed in 2022.

  • The elders began to discuss who God was calling to be the next senior pastor when Vineyard USA’s ReOrg plan was first announced (in late 2020). This process accelerated when Joel applied for his new position. A transition plan was created which included first talking with Johnny and Jess. When Joel announced that he was offered the position and said “yes”, the elders unanimously agreed to invite Johnny and Jess into the discernment process. This process included much prayer, project questions for Johnny to complete, and an in-depth psychological/emotional assessment. A feedback session followed the assessment with a Christian psychologist, the Friesners, Joel, and Amber. Our elders also sought input from Dave DiYanni our Area Leader for Vineyard USA. Joel also talked to the staff.

  • Johnny and Jess incorporated personal spiritual disciplines such as prayer, solitude, and journaling into their discernment process. They invited an intercessory prayer team to meet regularly with them to pray and to give feedback. They spent some time away to seek the Lord too. They were reminded of old words from the Lord and dreams that were given to them years ago. The project questions helped Johnny to see if he would get life from being a senior pastor. The in-depth psychological/emotional assessment provided outside eyes on their life, marriage, family, giftings, and callings.

    1. Per our church’s bylaws, the elders (including the current senior pastor) decide one of two paths to follow. The bylaws allow the elders to appoint the current senior pastor to find his successor and then present them to the elders and pastoral team for a vote. We did not choose that path. We chose the other path outlined in the bylaws - that the elders together discern who the next senior pastor should be. We created the process outlined in question #4 to discern first if God was calling an internal candidate (Johnny) before posting the position outside of the church. 

    2. Our bylaws require that our Vineyard USA Area Leader (currently Dave DiYanni) be invited into the process and be present for the official vote. Our bylaws require there to be a 2/3rds affirmative vote by the elders and pastoral team (all pastors on staff excluding any candidates). We are pleased to announce that the elders and pastoral team unanimously affirmed God is calling Johnny Friesner to be the next senior pastor of Lancaster Vineyard.

  • Johnny has the support of the elders and staff. He will also receive coaching from a seasoned senior pastor in the Vineyard.

  • The Seymours will continue to be a part of the Lancaster Vineyard. Joel’s new position requires quite a bit of travel as he will be visiting Vineyards across the country. Therefore, he will be gone some Sundays. Joel and Kristi will stay engaged in their small group and Emmie will remain active in the youth group.

  • Joel will stay engaged in the life of the Lancaster Vineyard Church. The elders, Johnny, and Joel will continue to talk about specific roles that will be beneficial for the church. At the very least Joel will be a sounding board for Johnny. Joel believes in the mission of “transforming people, transforming our city together in Christ” as well as the napkin dream of seeing Vineyards spread throughout the county and SE Ohio.

  • As transitions are both exciting and challenging the elders have decided to pause the Youth Pastor search until we see how the church navigates this significant transition. Any senior pastor transition is a big deal. It is even more crucial when it's the founding pastor who is transitioning to a new role.

  • The elders are entering a new discernment phase to determine the answer to that question. The new senior pastor job description prioritizes the pastor’s walk with Jesus, vision casting/communicating that vision, leadership development (including leading the staff), plus one item of the pastor’s choosing (I.e. outreach, discipleship, etc). Johnny will be prayerfully choosing which additional item he would like to focus on. We will also determine which staff members can take on any of those roles. We purposefully did not begin to think through that because we needed to find our next senior pastor first.