How to Welcome a New Pastor: 10 Suggestions

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I received the following email recently:

Hi Ron

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?

Thanks!

Interestingly, unknown to this email writer, their new pastor is coming from the church I pastor now. It’s 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:

Pray for him daily – You knew I’d say that. Right? But, 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.

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. Read THIS POST and THIS POST for more thoughts on this post.

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.

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.

Speak encouragement – Say, “Pastor, I’m here to help.” And, mean it.

Introduce him to 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Those are my suggestions. I feel the need to add to this post (even after it first published) that this is a general post, one of principle, not a specific post to your exact context. I don’t know your church or your new pastor (except in the case of the email I received…small world). This is not an endorsement of bad behavior and certainly not a suggestion that you ignore moral issues when you see them; even in the beginning days of a pastor’s ministry. But, I think we would have to agree those are the exceptions with a new pastor, not the rule. I just know, after blogging long enough, those will be the push back thoughts to this post.

Pastors, anything you would add?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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27 thoughts on “How to Welcome a New Pastor: 10 Suggestions

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  2. Very interesting breakdown, indeed. It’s nice to have such information available in one location and some ideas for new and different directions to take to help one stand out.

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  4. As a pastor's wife I can tell you the best welcome we ever had at a new church. The parsonage was sparkling clean, freshly painted where needed. Not easy as the previous pastor had moved out only the day before. People were there to unpack, wash, and stow dishes, pans, etc. They put things where I indicated, very little rearranging was needed later. People stopped by as movers unloaded furniture, and they each brought a single food item. Their arrival times were staggered, and the items were well planned. We received sandwiches, veggies, fruit, and a watermelon, pasta salad, paper plates, plastic forks. There was also milk, cereal, bread, punch, potatoes, meat, cookies, ice cream, chocolate syrup. Lots of things! We were able to feed ourselves, our sons, and the workers on the moving van. There was time to talk to people as they stopped by, so I learned their names. When the truck left, people came by to help make the beds. THEN, even though we had all that bounty, someone came by to tell us we were going to their house to relax with a hot home-cooked meal. Amazing! We were able to come home, shower, hop in bed, and rest! They took care of many of our immediate needs and we knew the names and something about quite a few people.

    Quite a contrast to the times we had to unload the truck into a house that had not been vacuumed and had items left behind in closets and cupboards. One place that happened turned out to be a wonderful church for us, but it was no fun packing other people's things, and washing grape jelly off kitchen shelves before we could start unpacking alone. When the kids were hungry we had to drive to the county seat to find a place to eat — back in the day when there were fewer places to eat. Quite a contrast.

  5. Good post thanks. I really like that you brought up "assumptions" I think that is such a bad habit that we naturally fall into and we need NOT too because it really hurts relationship building, especially in a new pastor situation.
    Twitter: kmac4him

  6. Sort of echoing Kathy's comments, I'm not a pastor, but the issues are similar for all of us. I especially like your comments on "tell your name, again, and again." Consider some of these same thoughts for church visitors, new staff members, contract workers, etc. Here's a wild thought: maybe people could wear nametags. Oh yeah, forgot, most have already tried that :-)

    Thanks for your great ideas, Ron.

  7. My Church recently brought a new Minister of Youth on board. He and the Pastor were the only paid staff members. Within 2 months of coming, he had graduated, gotten married, and the Pastor took another Church! The Pastor had no more than gotten down the road when 2 different factions in the Church showed up at his office with their agendas; each saying, now that " That Pastor is gone….." . Every day, I expected to see him pack up. He hasn't, which says a lot for him! Instaed, he and I have begun a Bible study that lets us meet once a week for prayer and discussion. He needs more experience than anything else, human wise, but , he has a lot going for Spiritually! A great heart for ministry. I'm glad you wrote this post, it gives me a better idea what I can do for he and his wife. Thanks!
    Twitter: bryankr

    • What's the deal with Senior/Lead pastors leaving shortly after associate/youth pastors come on board? The same thing happened to me at my first associate pastorate and it also happened to the associate pastor I did my internship under!

        • That has been of some debate for a while! The Pastor seems to have had an agenda in mind when we sat down as a Youth Search Committee. We were looking for, and put out the word for, a Full Time Youth Minister, he said it was necessary to change it to Assoc. Pastor/ Youth Min. He stated that no one would accept a position listed like that, it needed to be re-worded to be considered. We changed it, found a good man for the job, and the Pastor left. Sounded kinda fishy to me.
          That's why I have been so impressed with this young man! When he left, things got rough quick! Honeymoon was over, and it was time to fasten his seatbelt; His wife was right there with him, and hasn't flinched yet! I am so glad he asked me to join him in the Bible study, gives me the chance to listen to him, hopefully, mentor him, but mostly pray with him!
          Twitter: bryankr

  8. I'm not a pastor, but having been new to numerous communities, he may appreciate knowing where the good school districts are, doctors names, dentists names, where the best places to shop are (grocery, department stores, etc), and where to go for a haircut, and most important…a good restaurant or coffee shop! Along with having to acclimate to a new church family, his family will likely have to acclimate to a new city.
    Twitter: kathyfannon