It is that weird time in a moving pastor’s life when you have to think about two lives at once. You have to think about the saying goodbyes to your present congregation but then in the same instance you are thinking and wondering about the hellos in the next appointment. It is a mind numbing experience and is stressful to say the least.
This year I participated in our conference “Moving Pastor’s Seminar.” Five years ago this did not exist and I found it to be very helpful and gave guidance on how to navigate through these waters. One thing I enjoyed the most was Janice Virtue’s Top Ten Ideas for Starting Well. I thought it may be helpful to share them. The commentary is my take-away from her talk but the list is hers.
- You’re Fired – relinquish all control of your past appointment, that is the job of their new minister, NOT YOURS. Think of yourself as fired from that congregation.
- Leave Your Baggage Behind – this does not mean leave cats, children or unwanted clothes in the parsonage, but leave the emotional, personal, and troubling baggage at the last church. Start anew, start refreshed, this is a great time to reinvent yourself.
- Plan to Learn – don’t go in thinking you know everything, learn from your new congregation and grow deeper into who God has called you to be.
- Show UP! – be engaged in the new congregation. Dive in to the community and Congregational life.
- When the going Gets Rough, Turn to Wonder – being knew you don’t need to know all the answers right off, plus they don’t know you well enough to be truly make anything personal. When things get rough, ask questions of wonder. I wonder why that person is so vocal and mean spirited during meetings? I wonder why the congregation always has to get Mrs. Smith’s thoughts before they make a decision? Turn to wonder.
- Don’t Keep Them Guessing – ministry is not a magic show, reveal who you are and what your gifts and graces are.
- Know the Magic Words and Use Them – still not a magic show but three little words can go far in helping to build trust and understanding between a new pastor and congregation. Those words are…wait for it…help me understand. Those words give the people a chance to share their stories, their opinions, and their take on the life of the church. Plus, this means you as the pastor have to listen instead of talk.
- All Ministry is Interim – Janice talked about the ideas of “Leave no Trace: and “Look at what we’ve done.” Ministry is not about us, the pastor. It is about the Kingdom of God, the Body of Christ. Ministry is not about me as an individual. Start off like you are always ready to leave and the church could continue on its path without you. The church should not revolve or rely on the pastor, that’s Jesus’ job and you aren’t Jesus.
- You Hold the Hope of Many – many people look to the pastoral transition as a new start for the church, or a new chapter. With that comes hopes of the future and what is possible through God’s grace and calling in their lives. Don’t squash that, but capitalize on it. Realize you hold the hope of the future of the church in your hands, that is power, that is responsibility, that is a great honor.
- For God’s Sake – remember what ministry is for. Ministry is to help the people of God build up the Kingdom of God. It is for God’s sake we do what we do. Remove your ego, remove your needs for glory and get out of the way so God can work through you and your congregation.