Thoughts/suggestions on best practices for the positive welcome of a new pastor to a church
Important because the church is to be a unified body and the Bible is clear about the honor to the office of the pastor
SELECTING THE NEW PASTOR
…Follow strong and detailed steps for finding the best candidate, who as a final step of ten large steps, is brought in for the two Sundays and full week of preaching and meeting the church and presenting his approach to the Scriptures and the church.
BEFORE THE ACTUAL CANDIDATE WEEK OR TWO WEEKENDS
…Pray daily and as a staff and board for details and mood and unity, and for sure the emotional pain the pastor and his family and his church are going through in the transition.
…Pray daily and at meetings, for the reception of the new pastor. Some people do not like changes, and the very person is a change.
…Prepare carefully the week or two Friday-Sunday weekends he will be there as a candidate. In addition to new “town meeting” type meetings, he should visit groups and large gatherings and breakfasts that normally meet.
He should also meet influential past leaders – churches often invite former members of the board and unofficial influencers to a special meeting to hear his testimony and ask questions. This is not preferential treatment as much as recognition of the obvious influence of these people.
…Prepare as a staff and board for changes. While doctrinal changes or abrupt upheaals are out of order, it is true that any leader will bring some changes.
…Prepare to be his advocates, and assure him that if there is a change suggested by him that he should be warned about, because the church has a sacred cow of tradition, you will caution him and not allow him to walk into a firestorm. This is an application of the Golden Rule of our Lord.
BEFORE THE WEEK OR TWO WEEKENDS OF CANDIDACY
…Prepare an attractive brochure introducing the candidate and his family, including pastoral accomplishments and heart and why the search team and board have selected him as the best choice for this ministry.
Include it in an email mailing also.
…Have the one main staff and one main board leader make contact with the main staff and board leaders at the present church of the candidate, thanking them and telling them of prayers for them. Too often there is no contact, and usually it is a bit awkward, given the situation.
…Decide if you will publicize the numbers of the vote. Most who coach this area say it should be done, so no one thinks anything is being hidden.
…Plan exactly how the vote will be taken. If the proposed times of discussion with the candidate are given, there is good reason to have the vote be without discussion, but rather be a response to the motion from the board, with a second, that “Pastor Candidate be called as our senior pastor beginning as soon as possible.”
It is good to have this be a ballot vote, with the clear motion printed, and a simple YES or NO to circle.
It is a good practice to have this done right at the end of the service or services on the second Sunday of preaching, because there are always people who will not come back to a separate meeting for this. (Some horror stories can be told, one about a vote taken later with very few young families present, because of their habits of worship-service only.)
It is possible, when constitutional procedures call for a quorum that would not be met in multiple services, to have an earlier congregational meeting where the motion is accepted to suspend the rules so the multiple votes can be taken, or to count the worship services on the second Sunday as a continuation of that aforementioned official members meeting.
DURING THE WEEK OF TWO WEEKENDS OF CANDIDACY
…Allow freedom of questions, with many opportunities. See above about numbers of meetings and special invitations.
…Maintain as staff and board a rather quiet profile, but still joining the meetings. Participation time for staff and board was already given, though it would be good to help the candidate clarify anything that you know the people may have heard in a wrong way. In that case, be a friend and advocate.
..Schedule a board meeting at the end of the week for a final vote of affirmation. If a surprise storm or unforeseen mannerism or statement of intent happened (worst case scenario), vote to cancel the second Sunday and the vote. If all goes as hoped and expected, give one final affirming vote.
…Schedule a good hotel accommodation for all the time. Hospitality of members is kindly offered, but the candidate and his family need the private time at a hotel.
AFTER THE VOTE AND CALL
…Ask for the official acceptance of the candidate. This should then be quickly put on the website and forwarded to all the mailing list to celebrate.
…Celebrate with prayers of thanksgiving everywhere.
…Publish official dates of beginning.
…Plan an official installation service, usually a month or two at most after the beginning ministry of the new pastor.
Normally this is not held on the first Sunday.
This can include a very special dedication prayer, with the pastor kneeling and church board and two or three staff leaders and several local pastors gathered for the “laying on of hands.”
This can include the new pastor receiving in an official way the call of the church.
This should include a time when a leader or two from his previous church “commend” the pastor to the new church with an official statement of release and acknowledgement of God’s shepherding. This has the added advantage of good relationships being pictured.
This can include a sermon of installation and challenge to the pastor and the church, given by a speaker of the new pastor’s choosing, or the new pastor himself giving the sermon.
Colleges and seminaries always give a symbol of leadership (a mace) to the new president, and a church can give a medallion that signifies this ministry of pastoral love and shepherding and leadership. This could be a good reminder as it hangs in his office. Perhaps a special wooden shepherd’s staff.
Hardly huge: Decide what you will be calling him in title in publicity and the installation and later – why not Pastor John Doe, rather than always saying “Lead Pastor” or “Senior Pastor.” There are others who are associates or assistants, but for this service and in many ways always there is one pastor.
EARLY IN HIS MINISTRY
…Have another clarifying meeting with the board about its function (oversight direction and collaboration, often described by “the soccer field” documents) and the function of staff (Sunday and daily ministries). Communication, x 3.
Most boards, led by the pastor and chairman, repeat this every January or start of new terms.
…The board chair and pastor must establish regular times to meet one on one. They should pledge mutual respect and candor; and possibly agree that if they differ on a board proposal they will seek to work out those differences rather than every disagreeing on something substantial in a board meeting. They can promise they will not hide important feelings or desires from one another.
…Keep praying and serving with thanksgiving.
…Expect God’s grace and goodness!