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Former pastor: Change is normal in churches

PHOENIX -- Churches in all denominations have to go through change once in a while, as the Catholic church recently discovered with the first resignation of a pope in 600 years.

Tom Garisha -- Director of Pastoral Care and Coaching for the Evandelical Free Church of America and former pastor of Shiloh Community Church in north Phoenix -- said that being a pastor is one of the most stressful jobs in America.

"There's so much pressure on pastors and people in ministry today."

Garisha said that losing a leader can be a setback for a church.

"But I think if a pastor leaves a legacy and is mentoring someone on his staff and bringing them along, change is a lot easier to swallow," he said.

Garisha said that 80 percent of Americans don't attend church, and churches have to change from time to time in order to attract new believers.

"That does not mean changing doctrine or altering truth from scripture," he said. "It's a matter of changing that might become more relevant to the culture and the needs of the culture."

A change in church leadership usually means that some members of a church switching to another church when the new pastor comes in. That pastor usually leads new people into the church, but Garisha said pastors still blame themselves when they see people leave.

"It's really hard not to take that personally when people leave. That's a constant struggle for most ministers."

The Vatican is going through pre-conclave meetings meetings Tuesday -- pending the arrival of five cardinals -- before setting a date to start selecting a new pope. A total of 115 are expected to take part in the conclave.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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