As I write this, I am just starting my fourth year at my church. It has been an amazing time and it has made me think about other pastors starting at new churches.
Reflecting on my own experience and talking to other pastors, here is what I think pastors should do during their first year at a new church.
- Aim for some noticeable but not stressful changes. I don’t mean changing the name of the church, taking on a new music style or anything like that. I changed the website and the bulletin. Some change helps to signal that the church is in a new chapter.
- Come to understand the vision or mission of the church. There was already a mission statement for our church but no one seemed familiar with it. I could have fought to change it but I was happy to work with what was there. If the church doesn’t have an official statement, figure out what the unofficial vision is.
- Get to know the needs of the community. Not just the congregation but the neighbourhood and town/city of the church.
- Talk to the previous pastor. Get a sense of what happened before. This will give you an idea of what to continue and what needs a change of direction.
- Invest in the leaders. Whatever organizational structure there is, get to know the leaders, discover their gifts and build bridges.
- Get to know the people. Younger people don’t necessarily expect pastoral visitation the way older generations do. Find ways to get to know people. Discover the people God has brought together for this church family.
If a new pastor does all of these things, they will be well on their way to a successful ministry.