The arrival of a new pastor is an amazing opportunity for the congregation to mobilize for IMPACT! Receiving a new pastor creates a window – often a fleeting moment – for your fellow congregants to look at your church with fresh eyes, assess its culture, and use the opportunity for some cultural shifts that could positively impact the congregation and your community. You can be intentional in how you describe your community, your mission field, and your church’s culture to the new pastor.
This in itself is huge and it requires a high level of honesty and a huge dose of self-awareness. What makes the difference is the “why” behind your work on-boarding a new pastoral leader. If the purpose is to simply help the new clergyperson to “get with the program” and “understand how things work around here,” then the opportunity will be lost. On the other hand, if you purpose during this time of transition is to leverage this fleeting moment for serious Kingdom IMPACT, then all your critical conversations, providing information, and intentional relationship building has the potential to produce amazing fruit. (Excerpts from IMPACT! Reclaiming the Call of Lay Ministry)
To assist your congregation during this time of pastoral transition, here are a few tips to consider:
- Instead of your pastor having to introduce him or herself to the local community leaders, have congregants who are connected with these leaders make the introductions by inviting both to coffee or lunch.
- Provide a packet of information for your incoming pastor that includes your current demographics, mission statement, vision statement, core values, church goals, and targeted demographics. Also include a roster of the current leaders and staff and their roles, job descriptions, and contact information.
- Make sure your pastor and his or her family are greeted with extravagant hospitality. Provide some starter groceries and bottled water for them and a meal for moving day. Inquire if they would like assistance with the move or if they prefer to settle in alone quietly.
- Make a list of local providers such as doctors, dentists, auto mechanics, hair salons, restaurants, schools, and grocery stores with street addresses, websites, and phone numbers to help the family get connected and settled.
- Provide gift cards for the pastor to some of the local favorite dining locations. Not only is this a kind gesture, but this gives the pastor the opportunity to experience the community and the restaurant, but perhaps also meet some new neighbors.
- Host small cottage conversations in homes so the pastor can become acquainted with small groups of people over the summer. Make them low-key and relational.
- Ask your pastor how the leaders, staff, and congregation could be helpful during this time of transition. Often assumptions are made rather than asking.
- Be honest and upfront with the pastor about unresolved conflict and sacred cows! Don’t make them trip over these unknowingly.
A whole chapter is dedicated to making the most of pastoral transitions in the book, IMPACT! Reclaiming the Call of Lay Ministry, I co-authored with Blake Bradford. This resource features questions for leaders, staff, and disciples to process at the end of each chapter. If your congregation is receiving a new pastor this season, consider using this resource to take advantage of this fleeting moment to make a positive Kingdom IMPACT!