DOVE International Succession Plan

Preparing for the Future

Update 2023

As planned, beginning the summer of 2022, Merle began to spend time working with Larry on international leadership matters, including travelling with him to Kenya, India, Bulgaria, Colombia, Peru and Guatemala. More trips are planned for next year. This enables Merle to be introduced more fully to members of DOVE around the world and for them to get to know the future international director. This past year of joint ministry is preparing the way for Merle and the DOVE family to be able celebrate the full transition of leadership expected in April 2024.

We are ready for succession

DOVE International is ready for succession! After over forty years in leadership, Larry and LaVerne Kreider feel it is time now for them personally—and for the organization—to begin a new phase. Furthermore, all the leaders around them affirm their faithful and consistent leadership and confirm it is the right time for succession. This is further confirmed by our recognized spiritual advisors and the next level of apostolic leaders.

Succession and its benefits

Succession is a normal and healthy process in any church, movement, or organization. It acknowledges that as time moves on, the world and the people within it change.

While requiring careful consideration, succession is a wonderful opportunity to release different—and often younger—people to leadership responsibility. It is an opportunity to enhance the vision and values of the organization, but also to utilize others who will lead in new, creative, and compelling ways. Research has shown that one feature of organizations with longevity is they are constantly innovating and applying fresh approaches to life, business, or ministry.

Succession should ensure continuity of calling and values, yet give room for changes in methods and approaches. It is about identifying those with the character, knowledge, commonality of values, and skills to lead an organization into a new season. Succession also provides an opportunity for growth and multiplication.

Appointment of the Next International Director

Explaining our process

During a sabbatical in 2016, Larry and LaVerne Kreider felt it was time to begin a process for succession. In January 2017, an international director succession advisory team was appointed to investigate many of the issues involved and to provide information and advice on how succession best might be accomplished for DOVE. Their recommendations were submitted to the DOVE International Apostolic Council, who have been making decisions about how to proceed with this process.

According to DOVE’s leadership handbook, the appointment of a new leader needs complete affirmation of the team involved. In addition, any overseers or recognized spiritual advisors need to give general affirmation, as does the next level of leadership in the DOVE family globally. Larry and LaVerne and the International Apostolic Council have affirmed the appointment of Merle Shenk as the next international director of the DOVE International family, and this decision has been affirmed by our recognized spiritual advisors and the next level of leadership in the DOVE International family.

The road ahead

It is anticipated there will be approximately a two-year period of preparation during which the international director designate (Merle Shenk) will be further mentored and trained by the current international director and others on our team. This transition phase will have many facets, including joint ministry trips to other nations. Larry Kreider will remain the international director during this preparation phase. It is likely that Larry will hand over leadership to Merle in early 2024. However, the precise time frame may change depending on whether those involved feel complete readiness.

A prayer team has been established that will meet regularly to pray for Larry and LaVerne, for Merle and Cheree, and for the DOVE International movement during this transition period. All those involved can submit requests to this prayer team to facilitate full agreement in effective prayer.

Preparing for the third chapter in the DOVE story

DOVE began in 1980 when Larry and LaVerne Kreider and a group of twenty-five believers started a church in northern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania: DOVE Christian Fellowship. The Kreiders led the team, and ten years later this new fellowship grew to become a multi-site church of over 2,000 people. A few churches were planted in other nations, and in 1996 we decentralized the larger church into eight smaller churches plus three overseas churches located in Kenya, Uganda, and New Zealand. This was the first chapter of the DOVE story.

This new family of eleven churches was launched in January 1996 as we entered into chapter two. The Lord blessed us in chapter two of our history as we grew to over 1,200 churches in twenty-five nations.

We are now preparing to enter into chapter three of the DOVE story as younger leaders are being mentored to guide our growing worldwide family of churches into the future. We believe Merle and Cheree and a future generation of leadership will lead us into the purposes of God. We know that all generations in the DOVE family will serve together and honor one another as we experience all the Lord has for this global family we call DOVE International.

We all have a part to play

Every one of us has a role to play in this new phase. Every member can join to pray that this transition will lead to increased effectiveness, fruitfulness, and multiplication of the numbers of people who acknowledge, submit to, and bear witness to the Kingdom of God. We trust that the process will also encourage each of us to consider how healthy succession and multiplication can take place on every level of leadership in the DOVE International family.

“One generation shall praise Your works to another,
And shall declare Your mighty acts”

PSALM 145:4

Frequently Asked Questions

What was the process for choosing an international director designate?

In 2016, the DOVE International Apostolic Council (IAC) began succession planning. In 2017, a succession advisory team was formed. Keith Yoder and Reyna Britton were brought on as consultants, and Larry and LaVerne Kreider, Ron Myer, and Peter Bunton were part of that team. In IAC meetings in 2021, Larry and LaVerne Kreider and the IAC provided affirmation for Merle Shenk to serve in the role of the international director (ID) designate. This was confirmed by affirmations from Tony and Marilyn Fitzgerald and Keith Yoder, the DOVE International recognized spiritual advisors. It was also confirmed by the next level of leadership in the DOVE International family.


How did the IAC arrive at the selection of possible candidates and then narrow it down to one?

Since the succession transition process began in 2016, the International Apostolic Council began to consider persons who could possibly become the next international director. Early on, it was felt that Merle could be a suitable candidate. After much prayer, there was a sense that God was highlighting Merle as the appropriate choice. Each member of the Council met with Merle and Cheree to talk, ask questions, and raise any issues of clarification. Following those discussions, each member of the IAC affirmed that Merle should be appointed as the next international director.


What is the plan for the transition?

Larry Kreider will continue as international director until April of 2024. This enables a two-year transition period. The ID designate will begin to attend some executive leadership meetings and will participate in international travel with Larry Kreider. It is likely that the ID designate will assume an increasing number of responsibilities. Support and mentorship for the ID designate will be provided by Larry and LaVerne Kreider, a mentoring team, and a designated pastoral care team. We encourage the DOVE International family to provide support, encouragement, and prayer for these leaders as they lead us and walk through the transition process.

We anticipate that the official installation of Merle as international director will take place at the 2024 DOVE International Leadership Conference (ILC).


Why is a two-year transition necessary?

As with any new role—especially those that involve significant responsibilities—a time of training, familiarization, and preparation is needed. This is particularly the case with an international movement of churches. The new leader will need to travel to different regions of the world to meet people and understand better the global state of the movement.

As the lead elder of Newport Church, Merle will continue developing the core leadership team and serving as the lead elder there. The time frame above will enable a strong team to be developed to support the local church and ensure ongoing pastoral care and leadership. Merle will eventually be able to increase time and focus on DOVE International as well as continue to lead Newport Church. This could possibly be adjusted in the future as the global family of churches continues to grow.


Will the international director’s job description be the same, or is it being amended? Will the nature of the role be changing?

In broad terms, the nature of the role and job description will remain as they currently are. As things develop, some details may be modified in the future.


Who will give oversight to the new international director?

The international director is accountable to the recognized spiritual advisors (RSAs) in areas of character, conduct, and leadership. The international director is part of and leads the International Apostolic Council in which mutual accountability is practiced as part of DOVE’s organizational culture. The international director is responsible to report on matters concerning the movement to the RSAs. Members of the International Apostolic Council may also raise any matter of concern regarding the life and conduct of the international director to the RSAs. More details can be found in DOVE’S leadership handbook.


What will Merle’s title be while Larry remains the international director?

Merle now becomes the international director designate. The word “designate” is often used when someone has been named to a role, but has not yet assumed the responsibilities of that role.


How will the new ID designate build connections with the global DOVE family of churches and ministries?

We recognize the importance of relational interaction within the DOVE International family. In order to provide opportunities to meet regional leaders around the world, the ID designate will begin to travel with Larry Kreider beginning in 2022.


Will the purpose of joint travel be to introduce Merle to the DOVE family in various regions of the world?

Merle is already known in many regions due to prior visits and years of relationship building. As he travels with Larry in the next few years, it is intended that he will learn more about the local contexts and that, in turn, DOVE leaders and members will have the opportunity to get to know Merle better.


How will we provide care for the key players in the transition as they cope with significant changes?

We are aware that the pending transition will involve significant changes, both for the outgoing and incoming international directors and their families. With the consent of both Larry and LaVerne and Merle and Cheree, DOVE’s recognized spiritual advisor Keith Yoder will serve them in a pastoral role, ensuring that they have someone with whom to share and pray regarding the transition and its implications in personal and family life.


How will DOVE International honor the Kreiders as founders of the movement?

There will be opportunities to acknowledge and thank Larry and LaVerne for their years of dedication and service. Larry and LaVerne will be available to the new leadership for input and advice as needed after the transition.


Do we have to use titles for Larry or Merle now since DOVE is using them in the succession documents?

The use of titles is not required or mandated. The DOVE International family is built on relationships in many different cultures. At times, a title can effectively and succinctly communicate to everyone, including those outside of DOVE, what a person’s role and spheres of authority are. Titles can help to bring clarity in documentation; however, when roles and authority are understood, it is not necessary to use a title.


Between now and April 2024, how should we relate to the international director designate?

DOVE International is built on the high value of relationships. Our desire is that between now and the April 2024 transition, relationships with the ID designate and members of the DOVE family would grow in a healthy way. Larry will remain the international director with full authority and responsibility over this time. At various times it is likely that he will ask Merle to engage in certain aspects of ministry and leadership.

What roles will Larry and LaVerne play once the new international director is installed?

Larry and LaVerne are, and will always be, the founders and spiritual parents that God used to birth and establish DOVE. They will continue to be honored in this way as we move forward. Their official title will be DOVE International Founders. Larry and LaVerne are also committed to continue to be ambassadors for the DOVE International movement. They are not retiring from ministry, but will, of course, continue to serve with their unique gifts and personalities. They intend to continue to provide spiritual fathering and mothering to many, and be a resource to the body of Christ both inside and outside the DOVE family.


Will Larry continue to provide direct oversight to the churches he currently oversees?

For the foreseeable future, the plan is that Larry will continue to provide oversight for the few churches in question. This apostolic oversight is not specific to the role of the international director.

Will Larry and LaVerne remain on the International Apostolic Council?

After decades of service, Larry and LaVerne will step off the International Apostolic Council to create space for others. They will be available for input, wisdom, and counsel as requested.

How will Larry and LaVerne support themselves after the transition?

The Kreiders will be supported from a number of financial sources. This includes partial support from DOVE USA for overseeing some DOVE USA church leaders, resources they will continue to develop for the body of Christ, income from various areas of ministry, gifts from supporters, Social Security, their savings, and income from investments.

What has been Merle and Cheree’s process in making this decision?

Merle has been committed to working out the desire and call from the Lord, engaging in international apostolic leadership, and leading others to see the Kingdom of God expand among the nations. When both Larry and LaVerne and the DOVE International Apostolic Council asked if he was willing and called to serve in the capacity as DOVE International’s next international director, it was a confirmation to things Merle was sensing from the Lord. Merle had heard that God was asking him to be the next international director. Furthermore, he had received several specific prophetic words from others, some given many years before, that were in line with this call. Merle did not disclose any of these instances until after he and Cheree were officially asked to be Larry’s successor. When Merle shared these prophecies and his own sense of call, it helped to establish a sense of agreement that we were all hearing similar things from the Lord.

Given his life’s calling and gifts, and God showing him in advance that this was to be a role for him, the request to serve as DOVE’s international director was an affirmation.

Will Merle continue to be the lead pastor of Newport Church?

Merle will continue to be the lead elder/lead pastor of Newport Church.


Will it be possible for the new international director to combine both leading a movement as well as leading a local church?

In many movements, the international leader is simultaneously the lead elder of a local church. Larry himself, for many years, was both the lead elder of a local church as well as the international leader of the DOVE movement. This can work well when strong teams are in place to support the leader.


More about the Shenk family

Merle and Cheree Shenk are the parents to five children, and live in Lititz, PA. They are based from Newport Church, in Elm, Pennsylvania, USA, where Merle is the lead pastor.

Together they traveled for ministry in many nations before settling in South Africa, where they lived for 11 years and where they planted a church. Since that time, they received a clear word of the Lord which led them to relocate to Lancaster in 2016.

Merle has led various schools of supernatural ministry in South Africa and in the United States. His book, Encountering the Supernatural, was coauthored with Larry Kreider and Kevin Kazemi. Cheree serves on the pastoral team at Newport Church, and hosts a podcast found HERE. Merle and Cheree serve on the DOVE International Apostolic Team. Merle leads the apostolic team for DOVE South Africa and Zambia. They love to travel and minister to the nations. At home, they enjoy raising their family on their homestead in a peaceful valley in Lititz, Pa. The Shenk family enjoys worship nights, times together at the cabin, managing the various pets and animals around the home, and time with family and friends.

Listen to the Leading Together with Merle & Cheree Podcast to learn more about their story

Will the vision, mission, and values of DOVE stay the same?

Yes. Merle is being appointed because he believes in and carries the values of DOVE and is committed to its vision to build a relationship with Jesus, with one another and to transform our world from house to house, city to city and nation to nation. The mission and values will remain the same. However, we all acknowledge that there is the need for fresh strategy and methods for fulfilling that vision. Finding new ways to be effective in the coming years is essential.


How will DOVE International maintain its focus on the twelve values as we head into this next chapter?

The Kreiders and the IAC have been clear from the beginning of this process that the ID designate would need to demonstrate walking in the DOVE values and applying them in ministry for a number of years before being considered for the role. This holds true of the ministry of Merle and Cheree.


Will the DOVE International office continue more or less as is and in the same office building?

Yes. For the foreseeable future, the premises in Lititz, Pennsylvania, will continue to be the international office. The plan is that the existing ministries based at the office will continue.


How will this transition impact lead elders and DOVE International partner churches?

The structure of the DOVE International family as it relates to church oversight and regional apostolic teams will remain the same.

If Larry and LaVerne Kreider provide oversight to your local church pastors, this will continue. Please reach out to your leadership if you have specific questions that are not addressed on this platform.


Will there be any changes to regional apostolic teams?

The structure of regional apostolic teams will remain the same.


Will there be any changes to our recognized spiritual advisors team?

There are no planned changes to the team of RSAs at this time. The International Apostolic Council, however, has begun the exploratory process of finding others who could be added to the team of RSAs.


We are excited about the transition, but it brings up certain insecurities and fear. Where do we go with those thoughts and questions?

First, we encourage you to process these with your direct overseer, small group leader, or lead elder. As a relationship-based movement, we have communicated information about the succession process through our leadership relationships as much as possible. Our leadership succession website will also continue to be updated as more questions arise in the coming days.

“To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven”