Recently, my church got a new pastor. This was my first such transition in the United Methodist Church. Quite literally, I had one pastor on Thursday, and by Sunday morning I had a new one. I've served several churches as a youth director...some were churches where we had an interim period between pastors. Either way, these are some things I've learned as a church staff member that have helped in each of these transitions and hopefully they can help you.
1. Dont compare your new pastor to your old one. If you really liked your former pastor and got along with him well, don't immediately look to find the flaws in your new pastor or expect him to do things exactly like his predecessor. Likewise, if you did not get along well with your former, do not automatically assume things will be the same way with the new guy. Don't get caught up in playing the comparison game. This will only put him in a box in your eyes and limit your perceptions of the effectiveness of his ministry.
2. Be helpful. Chances are that your pastor moved in from a new community. One of the easiest things you can do to build a positive relationship with him is to help him get oriented to your community and the church. Let him know where he can go in town to get things done or who you would recommend for various professional services or where the good places are to eat. Also, let him know who the key leaders are in the church and also which members he should approach with more caution.
3. Focus on his strenths. Every pastor has a completely different make-up of strengths, weaknesses, and spiritual gifts. More likely than not, your new pastor will not be as skilled as your previous pastor in some areas. However, there will be many things that he may do better than his predecessor. Be on the lookout for those qualities. Learn from the way he does things then you can do tip number 4!
4. Be positive with your church members. Being on staff, many members of the church will follow your lead in determining whether or not they will get on board with the ministries of a new pastor. Often times they will ask how the ministry is going under the new leadership. If our previous pastor was admired by many church members, the more we say, "Well, he's not like _____", inadvertently we are destroying the ministry of our new pastor before it ever really gets started. Find some of the strengths he has and build him up to your church members. This will help them get on board with what God is doing through him in your church.
5. Be a team player. Help your pastor know that you are here as a spoke in a much larger wheel and that you see the youth program as a vital part of the church. Many youth programs are run as a kingdom unto themselves rather than as a part of the church as a whole. Letting him know that you want the youth involved in all the ministries of the church, not just the ones for teenagers, helps him to see that you are here to build the church with him, not to be divisive.
What things have you done to build a relationship with a new pastor? What lessons have you learned?
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