Shannon Johnson Kershner

Shannon Kershner Pastor-Elect Fourth Presbyterian Church

“For baptized women and men, being a part of the Church, Christ’s body, is not just another optional activity. It is a call. It is God’s mandate. Because of our baptism, we are the body of Christ together, even when it is difficult. We celebrate this family relationship at the Table when, through the Lord’s Supper, we are mysteriously joined with Christ in the feast that is promised and will be all in all.

“The bread and wine give us the nourishment and spiritual sustenance to continue on our journey as people of God, loving one another, working for justice and reconciliation, and proclaiming that God’s arms are long enough to embrace the whole world.”

—From Shannon Johnson Kershner, Statement of Faith

Videos from the March 2 Congregational Meeting
Shannon’s Words to Fourth Church
What Others Are Saying about Shannon Kershner
Tributes from the Pastor Nominating Committee
The “Job Description”
Members of the Pastor Nominating Committee
External Links to Video and Audio of Shannon
Shannon’s Email to Black Mountain Presbyterian Church
Fourth Church Email Announcing Shannon as Pastor

Videos from the March 2 Congregational Meeting

PNC Introduces Shannon Kershner at Fourth Presbyterian Church

The PNC introduces Shannon Johnson Kershner
as Candidate for Pastor of Fourth Church.


Shannon Kershner Addresses Fourth Presbyterian Church

Shannon Johnson Kershner, as Candidate for Pastor,
speaks prior to the congregational vote.


Shannon Kershner Announced Pastor-Elect of Fourth Presbyterian Church

The vote is announced. Shannon Kershner and her family
return to the Sanctuary, and Shannon shares additional remarks.


Shannon Kershner Pastor-Elect Offers Closing Prayer at Fourth Presbyterian Church

After being elected Pastor, Shannon Johnson Kershner
offers a prayer at the close of the congregational meeting.



The Reverend Shannon Johnson Kershner grew up in the manse of the First Presbyterian Church of Waco, Texas—the daughter of Jimmie and Sherry Johnson, a Presbyterian pastor and a school teacher.

She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Trinity University in San Antonio and went on to receive a Master of Divinity from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, where she was awarded the Columbia Leadership Award for demonstrating the greatest potential for future leadership within the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Before and during her time at seminary, Shannon served as Pastoral Intern at urban congregations in Texas and Georgia, including Central Presbyterian Church in downtown Atlanta. Her first call upon graduating was as Associate Pastor at the Woodlands Community Presbyterian Church in The Woodlands, Texas (1999–2002).

From there she was called to Woodhaven Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas, in the middle of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, where for seven years she served as Head of Staff (2002–2009) before being called as Head of Staff to her current congregation, Black Mountain Presbyterian Church, just outside the gates of the Montreat Presbyterian Conference Center in North Carolina.

Describing itself as a congregation made up of people from all over the theological, social, and economic spectrum, Black Mountain Presbyterian Church is a congregation of diverse ages and “probably twice as many retired pastors and missionaries in the congregation on a Sunday morning than there are lawyers, doctors, and school teachers.”

At a March 2, 2014, congregational meeting, the members of Fourth Presbyterian Church voted enthusiastically and resoundingly to call Shannon Johnson Kershner to be our next Pastor. She began her duties on May 1, preached her first sermon at Fourth Church on May 18, 2014—the Sunday we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the 1914 dedication of our Michigan Avenue campus—and on Sunday, September 21 was officially installed as Pastor of this congregation.

Shannon serves on the Board of Trustees at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia and as a member of the strategy team of the NEXT Church movement in the PCUSA. As Shannon describes it, “NEXT Church is an organic movement within the PCUSA that began when some pastors got together for honest conversation about what might be next for our denomination. . . . NEXT is committed to encouraging healthy tissue in the life of the church. We are committed to strengthening relationships between healthy leaders in our denomination, as well as between congregations. We desire to be a platform for folks who are doing innovative and good ministry to tell their story so that all of us can learn from it.”

Shannon’s sermons have been published in the Journal for Preachers and Lectionary Homiletics, and she has been a preacher and worship leader at various worship and preaching conferences, including serving as worship leader for Austin Seminary’s MidWinters event earlier this year.

Shannon is married to Greg Kershner, and they have two children, Hannah, a seventh-grader, and Ryan, a third-grader.

Greg is a financial advisor who has been with a Raymond James office located in Asheville. He, like Shannon, has a Masters of Divinity degree from Columbia Seminary. A graduate of Baylor University, he grew up at a large Presbyterian church in Houston and is excited for their children to have that kind of experience too. Greg loves the outdoors, particularly camping and hiking.

Hannah, 12½ years old, loves her church youth group and her school. Hannah is the cook in the family and likes to try out new recipes with her dad. She is also a very talented singer and is interested in acting.

Ryan is a 9½-year-old ball of energy. He is a fishing enthusiast and could do it all day, every day. He plays soccer and enjoys running around and playing with his friends. Ryan also loves the outdoors and is a great camper and hiker, too.

•                   •                  •

Shannon’s Words to Fourth Church

Spirit-led . . .

“I am here today because Fourth Presbyterian Church is a congregation steeped in the Reformed theological tradition, a tradition that continues to be an important and vibrant witness to God’s love, mercy, and justice. Fourth Church has been and continues to be a leader both in our Presbyterian Church (USA) denominational life, as well as in the Chicago ecosystem in which God planted you in 1871.

“When I look at you, I see a congregation who honestly tries to put into practice the gospel that is preached. I see a congregation whose members believe our Christian faith is to impact all of who we are and how we live in God’s world. I also see a strong staff engaged in excellent and faithful ministry in which I would be eager to join.

“Yet, I also want to be completely honest with you, because that is who I am: God and I wrestled over this call. My family and I felt very settled in Black Mountain, and my ministry with that congregation was vibrant and healthy. So this conversation with Fourth Church was disruptive. As I repeatedly told the PNC, becoming the Pastor at Fourth Church was not on my agenda for 2014! And yet, once God wrenched open my heart and led me through my fear, I found myself full of energy over what God might have in store for us. I feel very strongly that the Spirit has knit us together and we will be living into God’s imagination for us.”

The Centrality of Worship . . .

“For me, worship is absolutely central to the life of a congregation. Worship is when we practice living as a community of the baptized. It is when we are invited to be fully who we are, to put down our masks, to be challenged, comforted, and always invited into deeper discipleship. Worship is the primary time when we see how our lives are fitting into God’s larger story of reconciliation and redemption. I love being a part of that weekly experience. I am honored to offer sermons that I pray are reflective of our communal wrestling with Scripture.

“I feel strongly that all worship is to be full of life, energy, vibrancy, warmth, and honesty. I do not have a ‘pulpit persona.’ I always hope I am the same person in the pulpit as I am out of the pulpit. I have discovered that this commitment can free all of us up a bit to be more authentically ourselves. Throughout my ministry, I have seen how a strong and vibrant worship life impacts congregational health.
So leading worship well is extremely important to me.”

Listening and Collaborating . . .

“My leadership style is a collaborative one. I value other voices and opinions. Though a Pastor is certainly a congregation’s leader, my voice is one voice. The Reformed Presbyterian tradition has it right—we hear God’s voice most clearly when we are listening to and with one another. I love working with other people—staff, Session, trustees, deacons, etc. I find I am most creative in those collaborative settings.

“Plus, I need to listen to your voices. I have a tremendous amount to learn about you. I want to know your stories, your hopes, your questions, your fears. I do not come to this position of Pastor with an agenda to impose on you. I believe with all my heart God is going to give us, not me, the vision of what is next for Fourth Church as we move into the future together.”

•                   •                  •

What Others Are Saying

“Shannon Johnson Kershner is a caring shepherd, a creative thinker, a dynamic preacher, an unflappable Presbyterian, and, most of all, a faithful Christian. When I think of best-practice pastors, and when I think of those who give me hope and possibility and courage in these anxious times, I think immediately of Shannon.”

—Dr. Ted Wardlaw, President and Professor of Homiletics
at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Austin, Texas

•                   •                  •

“With a deep trust in God’s promises, Shannon’s pastoral presence exudes from her core. She is honest and gracious. She has just the right amount of ego—enough to be both strong and humble. Shannon is a gifted preacher and compelling worship leader who invites others into the power of Jesus’ redemptive love and call upon our lives. Collaborative by nature, she’s also willing to take charge to move things forward. I appreciate her attentiveness to the Spirit’s calling for transformation within the congregations she serves and her investment as a strategic leader in the NEXT Church movement.”

—The Reverend Jessica Tate, Director, NEXT Church

•                   •                  •

“Wow! Fourth Church has once again called the very best! Shannon Johnson Kershner is a dynamic pastor and a visionary leader. She is easily one of the ten best preachers in the Presbyterian church. Her winsome, witty, faithful voice is exactly what today’s thoughtful Christians crave. Together this fine pastor and this strong congregation are going to do amazing ministry. God bless you as you embark on this exciting journey.”

—Dr. Scott Black Johnston, Senior Pastor,
Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York City

•                   •                  •

“Shannon Kershner, a dynamic, passionate, creative, entrepreneurial, visionary leader is the perfect pastor for Fourth Presbyterian Church’s ministry. She has the charisma to draw Chicagoans into the mission of the church. She has the kind of collegial personality that makes building ministry teams of staff and parishioners second nature.

“She possesses a leadership style that focuses forward, shapes consensus even as it builds momentum, while drawing everyone into the work. And she blends all of these wonderful leadership attributes together with a calming sense of humor that enables even difficult conversations to be navigated efficiently and effectively. She is a powerful, engaging preacher whose sermons manage to delight, inform, and challenge simultaneously.

“As a member of the board of Union Presbyterian Seminary, Shannon has been a gracious and dedicated trustee whose voice is appreciated for the wisdom of its counsel and the pastoral nature of its presentation. Deeply committed to endeavors like theological education and the creative, visionary work of NEXT Church, she brings all the attributes and the appetite for preparing Fourth Church to meet the challenges of twenty-first-century church, academy, and world.

“The pairing of Shannon’s vast reservoir of talent with Fourth Church’s vision, people, and resources is a gift of the Spirit, the blessing of a relationship that is most certainly the working out of God’s call.”

—Dr. Brian K. Blount, President and Professor of New Testament,
Union Presbyterian Seminary

•                   •                  •

“The Reverend Shannon Kershner is a bright spirit in the Presbyterian Church (USA). I have worked with her from the first days of NEXT Church, where she has displayed honesty regarding what is, vision for what can be, and wisdom about how to move from here to there. Hope lives in her soul. She preaches with an honest heart and a winsome spirit. She trusts in Jesus Christ, and you can tell. She loves the Church, and you can tell. I see this as a great and historical day of celebration for Fourth Presbyterian Church and for the Presbyterian Church (USA).”

—The Reverend Tom Are Jr., Senior Pastor,
Village Presbyterian Church, Prairie Village, Kansas

•                   •                  •

Tributes from the Committee

“It was such an honor, in this process, to see the breadth and depth of the talent around the PCUSA. We heard and met many wonderful pastors, but Shannon stood out for her ability to connect not only from the pulpit but one-on-one with her congregation, which has grown tremendously in the last four years.

“A woman of deep faith, strong values, and a healthy sense of humor, Shannon is a leader who will inspire, challenge, and enliven us! As a member of this congregation for thirty years, I cannot wait to see what God has in store for Fourth Church with Shannon leading us into the future. And I am excited for each Fourth Church member to get to know her and her family, as we have during this process.”

—Marc Miller, PNC member

•                   •                  •

“In studying Shannon’s ministry, I was struck by how she exudes a passion for worship, preaching, Presbyterian polity, and cultivating a deep sense of community. She has the ability to inspire people of all ages and is tireless in her support of her congregation, soaring with them at weddings and baptisms but also offering comfort during times of trial by their bedside and grave site. Shannon’s pastoral strength and deep faith are contagious and draw you to her.

“Shannon's authenticity, her partnership with her husband, Greg, her passion for nurturing the spiritual development of her congregation, and her deep commitment to our Reformed tradition are what inspires me about her ministry

“From seminary through all her calls of service to our denomination, Shannon has a clear track record of leadership, inspired preaching, and the ability forge collaboration to drive innovation, which makes her a superb choice for Fourth Church.

“Shannon's leadership in our denomination with the NEXT Church showcases her creativity and passion for reaching those who are not drawn to organized religion. Shannon can help Fourth Church innovate and reach new audiences inspired by our mission to serve the least, the last, and the lonely. 

“Shannon has the ability inspire people of all ages which is critical to  a diverse congregation such as Fourth. The most dramatic element of Fourth Church’s growth over the past fifteen years has been the spike of children and families in membership. Shannon has the gifts to help us inspire, nurture and support our growing children and family ministry.”

—Ranjan Daniels, PNC member

•                   •                  •

“I first encountered our candidate when I watched a YouTube video of an extraordinary speech she gave explaining the formation and purpose of NEXT Church. She was instrumental in the organization of this group whose mission is to ‘foster relationships among God’s people: sparking imagination; connecting congregations; offering a distinctively Presbyterian witness to Jesus Christ.’
“As I watched the passion, enthusiasm, and intelligence with which she addressed her subject, I immediately realized that she would be a wonderful Pastor for our church. I very much liked her statement that she ‘loves the Presbyterian way of being Christian.’

“I then had the privilege of attending a worship service at her current church, Black Mountain Presbyterian Church. I witnessed her strong worship leadership and the close connection she has with her congregants. As I spent more time with her, I came to value and appreciate her deep love of God, her strong Presbyterian background, and her complete dedication to diversity. The fact that she is exceedingly charming personally is an added bonus.

“I have also enjoyed getting to know her husband, Greg, who is her biggest supporter. They have a very strong marriage and two wonderful children.”

—Joan M. Hall, PNC member

•                   •                  •

“I am beyond excited about the potential for Shannon’s ministry at Fourth Church and the future of this church that we all love.

“Throughout the process, visionary leadership was an important criteria. Jim Wellman’s book The Gold Coast Church and the Ghetto highlighted for us that each of our pastors over the last century were very different, and they were each right for their time. Shannon Johnson Kershner has clearly demonstrated that she is the perfect candidate for our time and the one to lead us into our next century on Michigan Avenue. Her perspective and leadership will help us manage the changing dynamics of today’s society and the changing nature of our congregation.

“At the same time, Shannon will provide strong leadership from the pulpit. One of the things I did as part of our research was to listen to all of Shannon’s sermons from last September through December. It was a unique opportunity to listen to her words across multiple seasons and events. Her words continually spoke to me. Shannon claims that she is not really an “issue preacher” but notes that if she has any issue, it is “grace.” That’s a theology that not only fits well with our church, but provides a foundation for many years’ worth of powerful sermons. 

“The first time we met Shannon, she tossed drops of water on each of us to remind us of the power of our own baptism. Those droplets of water fell not only on us, but on Joan’s dining room table, which was filled with iPads and cell phones! It proved to be emblematic of her wit and personal charm. She’s a pastor for all ages and a pastor for every one of us.”

—Mark Nelson, PNC member

•                   •                  •

“We fasted and prayed that the Holy Spirit would direct us to a new Pastor for Fourth Presbyterian Church. We are excited about the future of Fourth Church!”

—Arlene Raine, PNC member

•                   •                  •

“Shannon referenced in an interview that ‘The Welcome Never Ends’ at their church. For me this is foundational. Her contagious hospitality, combined with her deep faithfulness, warms and comforts the hearts and minds of those around her. I am most excited about the passion, spirit, and creative ministry Shannon brings.”

—Brad Pierce, PNC member

•                   •                  •

What the PNC Was Looking For

(As described in the Church Information Form, this was the “job description” shaped by congregational input and posted by the Pastor Nominating Committee early in the search process.)

“The Pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church will . . .”

  • Lead Fourth Church’s worship life and continue the dynamic preaching tradition, inspiring the congregation and the lay officers
  • Serve as the head of staff—supervising, building, and developing a collegial team of ordained and non-ordained staff members
  • Nurture the spiritual and educational development of the members of the congregation
  • Oversee the development and implementation of effective evangelism programs
  • Manage the resources of the church and the deployment of those resources
  • Champion the church’s fundraising, stewardship, and resource development initiatives
  • Be committed to nurturing children and families
  • Maintain and foster strong relations with the Presbytery of Chicago and the PCUSA
  • Develop working relationships with leaders of other faith communities

“The Pastor will be . . .”

  • A visionary who will be respectful of Fourth Church’s past while leading boldly into the future
  • An intellectually rigorous leader who is still growing in faith
  • A person of vitality able to minister to a congregation diverse in age, faith backgrounds, and experiences
  • An outstanding communicator with strong interpersonal skills and the ability to build consensus, who listens well and exhibits humility
  • An active supporter of Fourth Church’s mission work locally and globally
  • An experienced administrator with the ability to lead a sizable staff, engage the congregation in effective fundraising and stewardship programs, and understand the finances and operations of a large, complex church

•                   •                  •

The Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC)

     Juli Crabtree, Co-Chair
     Doug Grissom, Co-Chair
     Nicholette Andrews-Maggio
     Ranjan Daniels
     Sam Evans
     Joan Hall
     Marc Miller
     Mark Nelson
     Brad Pierce
     Arlene Raine
     Hilary Richardson

•                   •                  •

Links to more from Shannon Kershner

• The NEXT speech referenced above (video)

• (podcasts)

Shannon's sermons available online (text and audio)