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In 2017 Mark began to work with his Board at King of Kings on a succession plan and leadership transition, knowing that he planned on retiring in 2022.  In January of 2020, Mark passed the baton of Lead Pastor to his successor, Pastor Greg Griffith.  Going into all of this Mark and his Board were well aware of

the fact that a large majority of churches do not fare well in this regard. With this in mind, Mark and his team committed themselves to constant prayer while Mark conducted dozens of interviews, listened to podcasts, read books, and in general, learned all that he could about leadership transitions.

King of Kings has experienced the blessing of God in all of this and has not only survived this leadership transition but is thriving more than two years later. All of this has prepared Mark for his new ministry to pastors, boards, staffs, and churches that has led him to create Always Forward Ministries.

During Mark’s 40+ years as a pastor, he has certainly experienced a wide variety of churches.  Mark has commented on many occasions that he understands what it’s like to be a pastor of a church of 4 or 4,000.  He has served at three very different kinds of churches:

  • Small, traditional, country church, Zion, Ulm, AR

  • Brand new mission plant that was one of the fastest growing congregations in his denomination, Faith, Collierville, TN

  • Large, complex, 100+ staff, $5 million budget, 4,000 members, King of Kings, Omaha, NE



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Rev. Kent R. Hunter
Founder, Church Doctor Ministries

I’m honored and pleased to endorse Mark Zehnder’s Always Forward Ministries. Mark and I have trained thousands of pastors on several continents. His ministry record as a pastor and leader is amazing! Mark has developed a ministry that is greatly needed: Guidance for pastoral leadership transitions. Mark is a skilled diagnostician, coupled with his pastoral heart, love for Jesus, and relational strengths. His wisdom, experience, and deep love for God and the Body of Christ is paralleled to his care for pastors, church staff, and Christians everywhere who want God’s best for their congregations.


Many pastoral transitions end up as a train wreck. Denominational leaders do their best to pair pastors to churches, but do not have the time to examine the uniqueness of each local Body of Christ, your local church. Pastoral leadership is always one of the most important decisions a church can make. Mark knows the biblical importance of spiritual Gifts and leadership development. His help for your church will be so valuable!


Mark Zehnder is an accomplished preacher and teacher. He is a down-to-Earth servant whose love for the church is obvious. Beyond his skills, Mark, above all, is a genuine person whose love and encouragement for others is obvious. For all these reasons, and many more, I unconditionally recommend Mark Zehnder to help your church move effectively forward through pastoral and other church staff transitions.

Succeeding well in senior church leadership is one of the greatest legacies a transitioning pastor can give to a congregation, Christ's Beloved Bride but, unfortunately, too few do this well. Pastor Mark Zehnder is one of the rare exceptions. His example, friendship, wisdom and humility as he has transitioned his senior role at the known and respected King of Kings Church in Omaha Nebraska has inspired and encouraged me as I and 2 years in to a 3 year transition which is progressing well for the Body, the Eldership and the staff. Generous with sharing best practices coupled with willing transparency Mark has been a source of insight, encouragement and confirmation in our journey as a church. I look very much forward to ongoing interaction with him as I watch the example of a servant leader and a church honoring our King. When should a pastor begin thinking about succession? Their first day on the job. I pray if you're reading this that you will avail yourself and your church to the rich resource Mark can be in your journey.

Lead Pastor at Lifegate Church - Omaha, NE (outgoing pastor)


Rev. Les Beauchamp


Rev. Jonathan Dinger

We were very blessed to have Pastor Zehnder come into our setting to aid us in the preliminary stages of considering a pastoral transition.  Too often are "interim" or "vacancy" pastors eager, faithful, and willing to help but simply have not had the experience of leading a large and complex congregation with large staff, schools ministries, and facilities.  Mark not only brought expertise and experience to our complex setting from his own ministry history, but his heart for prayer, for compassion, but fundamentally for the mission of the church was what built an immediate connection of trust and respect, which now is truly affection and gratitude.  We received abundant and meaningful recommendations from his time with us, and are implementing many of them at this time.  What a blessed way to continue serving the Church after his own transition from parish ministry!

Senior Pastor at Grace Lutheran - Pocatello, ID (outgoing pastor)

I have been privileged to work closely with Mark for the past four years as the Executive Director at King of Kings Church and have had a front seat to his senior leadership baton pass. At this critical juncture in our church’s history, Mark led with discernment, humility, grace, and a positivity that brought both our staff and congregation closer together. His servant leadership created space for our new lead pastor to start strong and for the mission of our church to continue without missing a beat.

Mark’s heart for Jesus and His church is evident in all that he does and it is a delight for me to say that the guidance he shares with others has been lived out with great effectiveness here at King of Kings. I’m so pleased to endorse his Always Forward ministry and pray that the experience and talents he brings to the table will enrich your church as it moves into its next chapter.

Executive Director at King of Kings - Omaha, NE (staff)

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Julie Eesley



Pastoral Leadership Transition


Guest Preaching



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