Welcoming a new pastor is an exciting event in the life of a church. Pastoral changes happen for all sorts of reasons, of course—most good, a few not so. Circumstances surrounding the calling of your new pastor are bound to affect how you will respond to these changes, but your main goal is to act from wisdom, not from emotion.
Your preparation can help get things off to a good start; your expertise and administrative experience will provide continuity in the office and assist in a smooth transition. At the same time, the exercise of welcoming a new pastor can be an exceptional time of personal and professional satisfaction for you.
• Stay focused
Changing pastors can generate excessive chatter amongst a congregation. If this happens, steer clear. As a staff member, you have nothing to gain and much to lose by getting drawn off task by speculation. Use your self-discipline to keep to your schedule, to maintain excellence in your work, and to control the communications coming from the office.
Take advantage of time between pastors to catch up on tasks, to get paper and digital files in order, and to rethink your routines. Look for new and more effective ways to get work done and to implement changes within your range of responsibilities. This is your opportunity to establish your day as you would like it to be. The new pastor will appreciate coming into a smooth-working system. Later you can expect the pastor’s revisions, of course, but give yourself the advantage of starting from a workable place.
• See this as a fresh start
In the process of reorganizing, look at this as a way of starting over. This is a fresh page—a practical opportunity to correct any negative work habits, to sharpen your professional image, to reinvent your position, and to rededicate yourself to ministry.
Bury the past. How the previous minister worked, his or her preferences, the victories won, the challenges met—all are history. Cherish the good experiences, but resist the urge to reminisce. Leaving the past behind generates enthusiasm for embracing the new. It is entirely possible you can welcome your new minister as a new and better you.
• Use your support systems
Dealing with change, even positive change, increases one’s stress level. Allow your family and friends to be extra supportive while you are making the adjustment to new working conditions.
As you commit this issue to prayer, maintain close relationships with other staff, and nurture your friendships with members of the congregation. These folks may be feeling anxious too.
Put yourself in the place of the new pastor. What would make you feel welcome? What information would you like to know? What files would be helpful to have at hand? If you were new to the area, what would you like to know about the town and community?
Of course you will provide information on how to access the church’s computer files. But even if most of your church data is digital, hard copies can still be useful. Using your knowledge of the church and community, you can pull together information your new pastor’s Google search might never find. Some ideas:
• job descriptions/policy manual
• an updated church directory
• the past year's newsletters and bulletins
• church leadership lists
• city street maps
Marking the maps with locations of shopping, city services, hospitals, and so on is a helpful extra. You will think of many more items to have ready on the pastor’s desk (well stocked, of course, with letterhead, envelopes, note papers, pens, pencils, scissors, tape, stapler, stamps, and so on).
So, changes are in your future? A new pastor is on the way? How nice for both of you. Enjoy!