Pastors are on the Move! You can Help!
Annual Conference is over so for some of our pastor friends it is time to move! Last Thursday, I got a list from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership titled “50 Ways to Welcome your New Senior or Associate Pastor,” principally authored by Robert Cressman. I wish I’d gotten it earlier because it has some great ideas for saying goodbye to your pastor who is leaving in a healthy way, but I think most of you who are saying goodbye have already done so. Now, preparations should be well underway for receiving a new pastor and parsonage family. If you want to see the whole list, you can probably get it off the website www.churchleadership.com, but I want to share some of the highlights with you:
Prepare to welcome your new pastor
- Open your hearts and decide that you are going to love your new pastor.
- Begin praying daily for the new pastor and family, even as you continue to pray for your departing pastor and family.
- Invite church members individually to send cards of welcome and encouragement to the incoming pastor.
- Know that welcoming your new pastor in genuine and effective ways lays the ground work for a healthy and vital relationship and the development of stable, long-term ministries together.
Make things move-in ready
- Make sure the parsonage and pastor’s office are clean and ready. Offer to provide help or a cleaning service if needed.
- Make sure the new pastor and church officials are clear on who and how moving expenses are paid and all matter related to compensation, benefits and reimbursement policies.
Welcome your pastor on moving day
- Stock the parsonage refrigerator and pantry with some staples.
- Make sure there are kid-friendly foods and snacks in the refrigerator if children are arriving.
- Have a small group on hand to greet the new pastor and family when they arrive and to help as needed.
- Offer child care if there is an infant or toddler in the household.
- Invite children in the household to do things with others of their same age.
- Welcome any youth in the household by having church youth group members stop by and offer to show them around.
Continue the welcome during the entry period
- Take food over for the first few days. Many churches continue the practice of having a “pounding” for the new pastor when persons bring food items.
- Provide a map with directions to local dry cleaners, grocery store, drug store, veterinarian, etc., and information on local internet and cable television providers.
- Give gift certificates to several of your favorite restaurants in the community.
- Give the pastor and family a welcome reception on the first Sunday. Last year at St. Peter’s, we were welcoming two new pastors so we decided to have a church-wide Ice Cream Social on Sunday afternoon. We asked each Sunday school class to write a note or card with pictures of the members of the class so that the pastors could get to know us by small groups. Not only did we all get to meet the new pastors, it was a great event for our church family!
Help the new pastor become familiar with the congregation
- Introduce yourself to the pastor repeatedly! You have one name to learn, your pastor has many names to learn.
- Wear Name Tags. Even if name tags are not a tradition, the congregation can wear them for a few weeks to help the pastor learn names.
Help the new pastor connect to the community
- Provide local media with information about the new pastor.
- Introduce your new pastor to other clergy in the community. Provide information on any ecumenical activities or associations.
- Introduce the new pastor to public and community leaders.
- Ask church members in civic clubs to take the new pastor to one of their meetings.
I think one of the most important suggestions is actually number 6 on the list and it is, “Appoint a specific liaison person to whom the pastor can go for help and information during the transition.” Twice, when we received new pastors at St. Peter’s, I have been that person. Both times, it has been an incredible blessing to me. You just don’t get to know someone the same way in a meeting or at Sunday morning worship as you do when you meet them moving in to help set up their kitchen, do their grocery shopping, make sure the gas is turned on or learn that they cannot start the day with out a Diet Coke!
Remember, Pastors are People, too! If you can think of something that really helped you get moved or settled in a new house or neighborhood, they would probably appreciate the same thing. Not everyone can offer a new pastor and family the same kind of support, but every member of every church can certainly offer prayers! So, as many of you receive new pastors over the next few weeks, pray for them, make them feel welcome and love them into their new homes and communities.
Showers of Blessings,