by Dennis Wiggs
Excitement fills the air when the young pastor and his wife make plans to move to a new church—new visions, greater opportunities, the challenges of preaching, leading, witnessing and visiting. The move is made, the furniture unloaded. Some church members drop by. And suddenly, it hits him like a ton of bricks. “l am the pastor. I am the one the church has approved. I’m it! Lord, help me. Where do I begin?”
Help Your Wife
That’s where it begins! As much as the books need to be unpacked, the computer set up, the first sermon prepared, some church members met, and more—your wife must first receive assistance hanging curtains and blinds, setting up and arranging furniture, placing pictures, and more. Your new home, whether parsonage or purchased, is the wife’s castle.
If the young pastor is frightened by the new, awesome responsibility, his wife may be even more afraid. Help her get established.
Arrange Your Study
Books must be unpacked and placed on the shelves. The computer must be in the perfect spot. Spend as much time as needed to prepare your tools. Do it right the first time, and you will enjoy the benefits throughout your time at the church.
Prepare for the First Service
Saturate the sermon with Prayer. But don’t expect to transform the church with that first message. It will take several months before the pulpit feels comfortable. A new pastor often brings out church members who were disgruntled with the previous preacher. Unkind words and actions committed toward the previous Pastor may cause some to go to the altar. Don’t pat yourself on the back, young preacher. Thank God for the opportunity to preach. Trust the Holy Spirit to do His ministry in the congregation.
Inform the Congregation
Pastor? Preacher? Brother? First name? Last name? They need to know how to address you. Tell them during the first week or two, either in the bulletin or by a pulpit announcement.
Study Church Policies
Every church operates differently. Study the constitution and by-laws. Read the minutes. Ask the church clerk for a list of church members (and don’t try to purge the church roll immediately). Ask the deacons how they conduct the ordinances, business meetings and special services. Listen. Take notes. Keep quiet if you don’t like what you hear. As the church learns to trust you, you will be able to make some changes.
Never Criticize Former Pastors
Don’t even listen to criticism. After staying at a church awhile, the former preacher’s action and church operation will be better understood.
Let the community know that a new pastor has come to town. Send information to the local newspaper with your picture. If they will not print it free, ask the deacons or finance committee for permission to pay for the advertising. Subscribe to the yellow pages. Produce a neat, informative church brochure. Develop or revamp the existing website. Introduce yourself at local businesses.
Register at Hospitals
Introduce yourself to local hospital chaplains. Request an I.D. badge if the hospital provides one. Speak kindly to the information desk workers. Hand out church information to nurses and hospital workers.
Plan the Church Year
With the assistance of the deacons, church secretary, and other congregational leaders, determine what the church has done in the last few years on special occasions and set a schedule for the upcoming year. Don’t forget important dates such as Vacation Bible School, Missions Conference, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Veteran’s Day, and Christmas.
Ask an older, respected member of the congregation to accompany you on your first visit to the homes of church members. Ask them about their salvation experience. Write down their prayer requests. Avoid complaints about previous pastors or other church members. Make the visit optimistic. Pray before you leave.
Nail Down the Furniture
Approach this new ministry with plans to stay as long as the Lord allows. Yes, discouragements will come. Some people will leave. Testing wiIl abound. But put your hands to the plow, look ahead, and trust the Lord for a fruitful ministry.
About the Writer:Dennis Wiggs retired in 2004 after many years in ministry.
Adapted from Contact magazine, October 1999.