November 17 - Succession planning is important to members of the Cottage Grove Bible Church (CGBC). Robert “Bob” Singer accepted the invitation to become their pastor in June 1989. Five years ago, he told the church elders he planned to retire in 2022. Last year, a prayerful and thorough search was launched to select his successor. Last month, by a unanimous vote, Pastor Ron Harris was called and will begin as pastor on Jan. 8.
Harris grew up in Cottage Grove and began attending the church in 1983, holding a variety of leadership positions. He graduated from Prairie Bible College and ventured into his own pastorate. He became pastor in 2009 at Valley Bible Church in Kooskia, Idaho. Since 2017, he has served as pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Bandon, Oregon.
Singer is currently Cottage Grove’s longest serving pastor. He was born and grew up in Wilmington, Delaware He earned his bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Delaware and later earned his Master’s and Doctorate degrees from Western Seminary in Portland. His doctoral product was a complete harmony of the four gospels in The Bible’s New Testament.
Bob and Helen Singer celebrated 46 years of marriage in March and for nearly all of those years have worked as an effective team both pastorally and administratively. Since 1993, Helen has served as church secretary in addition to leadership roles in Christian education and women’s ministries. They raised their three (now adult) sons here: Tim, Phil, and Ben. Tim is using his musical talent as the church pianist, along with his many computer skills.
The Singers said highlights of their 33-year-long commitment to members of the church include a significant change in church governance, establishing an Awana children’s program, a partnership with Child Evangelism Fellowship to host its summer camp, and increased church participation in community events and organizations. During the Singers’ tenure a large room for youth activities and three new classrooms were added to the original building.
“When I got here the church constitution had a pastor-deacon system of governance that only allowed the pastor to be an ex-officio member of all committees,” Bob said. “We changed it to an elder system so that all board decisions are made by the pastor and the other elders in unanimity. This form of governance is now a common practice among the northwest churches in our association. We’ve used the model well and have worked very hard to maintain good leadership for our church members.”
Helen said Christian education is the bedrock of the church’s mission. In 1990, the church began an Awana program as a community outreach for youth on Wednesday nights during the school year. The worldwide organization teaches kids about Jesus and helps them develop socially, relationally, and spiritually through weekly Bible lessons, Scripture memorization, games, and activities.
“The Awana program has been extremely effective in discipling generations of youth in our community,” Helen said. “We have been pleasantly engaged with kids as they made crafts in our Bohemia Mining Days Good News Booth. For years we’ve organized the popular Awana Grand Prix pinewood derby competition at the WOE Fair. Our facility is well-suited to host the Child Evangelism Fellowship summer camp for kids and we’re happy to work with them to introduce the love of Jesus to their campers.”
In addition to carrying out their responsibilities at the local church level, Bob and Helen are well-respected leaders within their association. He has served several times on their trustee board and is currently board chairperson for the Conservative Baptist Northwest Association which has about 245 affiliated churches in four states. Helen serves on the Pastor’s Wives Ministry Committee, which plans and leads a fall retreat for women whose husbands are in pastoral ministry.
After a five-week vacation next year, they plan to serve in interim pastoral assignments at churches searching for a new pastor. Bob is excited about an upcoming meeting with Zondervan, a Christian publisher, to explore the possibility of publishing his well-received complete harmony of the four gospels in the New Testament. If that doesn’t work out, he wants to make it freely available online.
CGBC will remain their home church and they look forward to spending time with their children and grandchildren. Bob and Helen plan to continue as Harrison Elementary School street crossing guards and Bob wants to continue as a lifeguard at the swimming pool.
“After serving this church for 33 years, I am extremely pleased God led us to call Ron back to the church and the Holy Spirit led him to accept the call,” Bob said. “We work well together and, now the decision has been made, I am deferring more to him on issues to make this a smooth transition.”
Cottage Grove Bible Church was planted here in 1963. With these two men having such deep roots in the nearly 60-year-old church’s history, a symbolic and memorable worship service with past and current church elders is planned for Sunday, Jan. 8 at 11 am to celebrate the formal transition. The community is invited to attend.
The church will honor Bob and Helen with a retirement party on Sunday, Dec. 18 at 3 pm at the church at 1200 E. Quincy Ave. Those who have worked with the Singers in the last three decades are invited to attend.