|Photo by Pam Williams|
A couple of years ago I wrote up guidelines for welcoming a new pastor. Our annual conference sent them out to all the UM churches which were going through a pastoral change. While welcoming a new pastor is exciting, it is also a bit unsettling, if the truth be known.
However, a few simple acts of kindness can initiate a seamless transition and lay the foundation for a loving, supportive relationship. Here are a few proven, practical suggestions that may help smooth some of the initial wrinkles, just in case your church may be in this situation or may face it sometime in the future.
PRAY: God’s hand is at work here! Pray daily for the incoming pastor and family and also for the entire church staff and congregation. Prayer is VITAL.
CLEAN: Organize a parsonage and pastor’s office cleaning party. As you wash windows, dust shelves, shampoo carpets, mow the lawn, and complete planned renovations, pray for the family. Consider leaving a welcoming note signed by everyone who worked and prayed there.
VISIT: On moving day, have a representative of the church stop by the parsonage to check how things are going. Leave a phone number in case questions arise later. If the pastor’s family is open to the idea, parishioners could lend a hand by offering to reassemble and make up beds, provide on-site childcare, dispose of empty boxes, etc.
PROVIDE: Carry in simple meals in disposable containers for a few days. Check if anyone in the family has dietary restrictions. Sandwich fixings in the fridge or a welcome basket of snacks, fruit and beverages provide a quick bite whenever hunger hits.
INFORM: Provide a church pictorial directory, recent newsletter, local phone book, and a few brochures of area attractions. These will help the family become acquainted with the church and community.
NAME: Wear nametags for a few Sundays. While the church family has only a handful of names to remember, pastors and their families must learn hundreds.
WRITE: Send notes welcoming the new pastor and family, even before they arrive. Don’t forget the teens and children for whom a move can be very upsetting.
EXPEXT: Expect differences in gifts, personality, sense of humor, and areas of emphasis. This is a wonderful blessing from God—an exciting chance to stretch and grow spiritually. Embrace the opportunity!
I am not sure if our conference is still sending out my guidelines, but Trucksville UMC nailed every single item on the list!!! Dick and I have been overwhelmed with the love and kindness God is pouring out through the caring members of TUMC. As we have experienced firsthand, a new pastoral relationship can be a positive, blessed beginning for everyone with a little extra effort and a lot of extra prayer.
*This post is excerpted from my article, “Welcoming the New Pastor”, published by EVANGEL (a publication of the Free Methodist Church of North America), November 2011.
©2013 Pamela D. Williams