Ron Edmondson knows firsthand the many
idiosyncrasies of stepping into leadership in a new church.
I received the following email recently:
After a one-year search, our church has called a new lead pastor. Since you (fairly) recently took on a new pastorate and it’s fresh in your mind, I’m wondering …
What advice would you give to the congregation for how to best help him and his family?
What specific advice would you give to existing ministerial staff in the first couple of weeks/months before/while/just after he arrives?
Interestingly, unknown to this email writer, their new pastor is coming from the church I pastor now. It truly is a small world after all. He’s right. Having just gone through this process, I have some thoughts.
Here are 10 suggestions for welcoming a new pastor:
1. Pray for him daily.
Truly, there is no greater comfort for a pastor than to know people are praying for him. I can literally feel it at times. On an especially stressful day, I sense God’s protection by the prayers of God’s people.
2. Love and honor his family.
This includes helping them acclimate to the community. Especially if there are still children at home, they will need more family time at home, not less. The family is stretched and stressed, out of their comfort zone and pulled in so many directions. Let him have adequate time at home. Let the family time be honored as much as his church time.
3. Tell him your name … again.
And again. And again, if necessary. Learning names may be the hardest thing a new pastor has to do. Give him ample time to learn yours.
4. Don’t gossip about him.
If you don’t understand something … ask. Be very careful not to propagate misunderstandings. Be a positive voice for the future. Stop gossip and rumors as soon as you hear them.
5. Speak encouragement.
Say, “Pastor, I’m here to help.” And mean it.
6. Introduce him to other leaders.
In the church and in the community, it is helpful if the pastor knows the influencers whom he will likely encounter during his ministry. The earlier, the better.
7. Let him set his pace.
It will take a while for him to figure out his stride. Give him your understanding during this time. He may not make every visit you want him to make. He may not place priority where you think it needs to be placed. He may not introduce change as fast as you want him to, or it may seem too fast. Let him set the pace.
8. Don’t offer a million suggestions.
There will be time for that, but he needs time to learn the church. Most likely you’re already doing lots of things … some good and maybe some not so good. Let him learn who you are as a church before you fill his head with too many new ideas.
9. Don’t prejudge.
He will make his own mistakes. Don’t hold a previous pastor’s mistakes against him. Don’t assume, based on his history or your expectations of him, that he will perform a certain way. He may. He may not.
10. Extend the honeymoon.
Honestly, it usually seems too short anyway. If the pastor begins to make any changes at all, some people lose faith in him. He needs time to acclimate. He needs time to learn you and the church. Keep loving and supporting him, even when changes become harder to make and harder to accept. If God brought him there, God wants to use him there. Let God do as God intended.