Today I spoke at New Hope Baptist Church in Creswell, OR where Sam Morgan served as pastor for 22 years. Last week the church called Rob Walker to serve as their new pastor. Rob will soon arrive with high expectations for what God will do.
When a new pastor arrives there are several ways that church members can help him to start well. A strong start greatly increases the opportunity for a highly effective and enduring ministry. Here are seven things every member can do.
Pray for your pastor and his family every day.
Every aspect of transition to a new city and ministry requires God’s leadership if it is to be done well. Pray for favor as your pastor and his family meet people, establish personal and business relationships, transfer their children into new schools, and a hundred other things. You can do much for them, but God can do more and you need to pray that God will direct them and protect them in these first weeks and months.
2. Introduce your pastor to leaders and friends in the community.
A new pastor provides a new opportunity to impact your friends for Christ and the ministry of the church. Also, your pastor needs to know the people of the community not just the members of the church. You can help him do this by bringing him to civic and school gatherings and sporting events. Among the membership of the church are those who know community leaders. Who are the five most influential people in town? Help your pastor get to know them. Don’t forget those community leaders whose responsibility is to address the needs of the poor. Your new pastor will want to know these people and how needs are being addressed in the city. Who is the mayor, the police and fire chiefs and the school superintendents and principals? Who are the major employers? The pastor will want to know each of these.
3. Orient your pastor to the history of the community and church.
What are the most significant happenings in the history of the town? What major decisions and events have happened in the past ten years? Similarly, who were the people who helped to build the church? It will take time, but the pastor should come to know the community as well or better than anyone. You can help him do this by telling him the stories and history. If a community or church history has been written, make sure the new pastor has a copy. There are widows and widowers in the church whose spouses served as small group leaders, greeters, deacons and in other aspects of ministry. It can be sad when a new pastor comes who didn’t know their deceased spouse. Help the new pastor know who these people were and the contributions they made to God’s work through the church and in the community.
4. Help your pastor understand recent community issues, including how they affected the church.
What have been the most significant issues in the community in the last five years and how have they affected the church and her membership? Community issues could include divisive political battles or issues at the school. They could include major issues between management and labor in a union matter. The coming or closing of businesses that employ(ed) large numbers could have produced relational problems between church members or between the church and the community. Your new pastor will be helped if you make him aware of such things.
5. Let your pastor be himself and resist comparing him with others.
Pastoral ministry is getting more difficult in several respects and one of these is the availability of sermons from most every preacher in America. When I was a young pastor a church member compared me with the most prominent television preacher of the day who was famous, in part, for never mentioning the need to repent or confess sin. “Possibility thinking” was his shtick and in the mind of this member that’s the kind of preaching I needed to do if I wanted him in attendance on Sunday. I have never forgotten his comparison. Please, please, don’t compare your new pastor with others, be they glitzy gospel superstars or merely his humble predecessor. It won’t help him, you, the church or the Kingdom.
6. Support your pastor with your presence and faithful service.
Your presence in worship gatherings and faithful service through the church and in the community will greatly encourage your new pastor. He can’t “do it all” and he shouldn’t try. The church is the Body of Christ and every member of the body has a function in a healthy church. Do your part and let him know you love Jesus, the church and the pastor and his family.
7. Encourage your pastor to take time for himself and his family.
Pastoral ministry is not a 40 hour-a-week job. Most pastors work long hours, are always “on call” when needs arise, and often have a difficult time pulling their thoughts away from the next message they are preparing. Add to that the tyranny of cell phones and it becomes nearly impossible for a pastor to take time each week for himself and his family. If your pastor is bi-vocational the time pressures are greater still. Lay leaders must insist that their pastor take time for himself and his family. Give your pastor plenty of vacation and “make” him use it. If he’s bi-vocational he needs additional vacation.
The relationship of a pastor and church is akin to a marriage. It is spiritual and intimate and personal because it concerns the deepest needs of the soul. Just as a great marriage makes all of life better, a great relationship between a pastor and the church improves the lives of all concerned. You can help your new pastor begin well and establish a strong and impactful ministry.
Northwest Baptist Convention