I frequently receive questions from churches who want to welcome a new pastor and do it well. I’ve written extensively about some of my own transitions. I assume people think I might have advice to give a congregation for how to best help the pastor and pastor’s family feel welcome and acclimate.
And, the fact is I do have some thoughts. More than my usually seven.
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 them by name. 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 the pastor’s 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 the pastor have adequate time at home. Let the family time be honored as much as their church time. Read THIS POST and THIS POST for more thoughts on this post.
Tell the pastor and family your name – again – And again. And again, if necessary. Learning names may be the hardest thing a new pastor has to do. Give them ample time to learn yours.
Don’t gossip about the pastor or family – There will almost always be changes when a new pastor comes to a church. If you don’t understand something – ask. Be very careful not to propagate misunderstandings. Be a positive voice for the future. And, stop gossip and rumors as soon as you hear them.
Speak encouragement – Say, things like, “Pastor, I’m here to help.” And, mean it.
Introduce the pastor to leaders – In the church and in the community, it is helpful if the pastor knows the influencers whom they will likely encounter during their ministry. The earlier – the better.
Let the pastor set the pace – It will take a while for a new pastor to figure out their stride. Give them your understanding during this time. They may not make every visit you want them to make. They may not place priority where you think it needs to be placed. They may not introduce change as fast as you want them to, or it may seem too fast. Let them set the pace – especially in the early days.
Don’t offer a million suggestions – There will be time for that, but the new pastor needs time to learn the church. Most likely you’re already doing lots of things – some good and maybe some not so good. Let them learn who you are as a church before you fill their head with too many new ideas.
Don’t prejudge – A new pastor will make their own mistakes. Don’t hold a previous pastor’s mistakes against them. Don’t assume, based on their history or your expectations of them, that they will perform a certain way. They may. They may not. I came out of the church planting world and into an established church. I think some people assumed I’d wear sandals on Sunday. I haven’t yet.
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 them. A new pastor needs time to acclimate. They need time to learn you and the church. Keep loving and supporting them, even when changes become harder to make and harder to accept. If God brought the pastor to your church, God wants to use them 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) 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. I do these can help a few churches.
Pastors, anything you would add?