By Josh King
I just finished a new start. I guess I can say that. When are you no longer the “new guy?”
It’s like the whole, “when is a church plant no longer a plant?” question. But we’ll leave that one for another day.
As I write this, I’ve been the new pastor of Second Baptist Conway for three months. To be honest, it feels like it’s been much longer than that.
Starting a new pastorate has been both hard and rewarding. But it’s a good kind of difficult.
We’ll have to wait a few years to find out if I started well, but as best as I can tell, things are going well.
If you’re beginning a new pastorate role, here are five keys I’ve discovered in this last little whirlwind that may be of some use to you.
1. Play the Long Game
I have to tell myself this all the time. Since I spent seven and a half years at my previous pastorate and accomplished so much there, I continually battle impatience.
I want to get to the maturity we had in my previous church, right now. Yesterday would be preferred!
But just like my last church, this relationship will take time to develop. And that’s not just good–it’s for the best.
2. Learn From Your Mistakes
The way my extended faith family finds and selects pastors can make the process overwhelming. You spend months just walking through a process and getting to the church.
Most of the conversation focuses on the challenges the church is facing and the steps to getting you and your family “on the ground.”
In all of that, we lose sight of the day-to-day priorities we should be making with the actual people. So, take a few moments and write out all the things you would’ve done if you could have started your previous pastorate over.
What meetings would you’ve had? Which challenges would you’ve focused on that you didn’t? Once you’ve identified these things, try to do them where you are now.
3. Bring Your Experience
You’re no longer a green pastor. You’ve done this before. So don’t stand there looking at your church like a calf looking at a new gate.
There’s a time for you to learn the staff, culture, and structure of a new church. However, there’s also a large number of people who are wanting you to jump in and lead. They’ve been waiting for you to do this!
Be honest, be direct, and make decisions. Say, “Let’s try it this way for a while and see how it goes.”
We waste a lot of time in the name of “learning this culture.” While that may be vital, a lot of what you learned in your previous assignment is applicable anywhere.
So apply it. I’d argue God was preparing you in your last position so you’d be successful in this one.
4. Relationships Have a Hierarchy
When entering a new pastorate, the temptation is to get into your new digs, establish a larger platform, and start making the rounds having coffee or playing golf with the other pastors in town.
That’s fun, but it can wait.
This has been a big transition for you and your family. Spend some time, not at the church or with church folks, but with your family. Explore the city and new setting together. Convey a sense of calm and fun.
After that, you need to get to know the leadership of your church. Lunch is an excellent time to hang out with them. If you have staff, plan some fun times to get to know each other and have a good time.
The other ministers are fun to hang with, and there may be an incredible pressure to display “big C, Church unity,” but that can wait.
5. This is a time and relationship gig
This is the biggest thing. Don’t sweat all the oddities you discover at your new church. A few people will be unreasonably difficult. Some will be suspiciously friendly.
Just love people and trust God.
Take your time to build relationships, set agendas, and launch initiatives. Don’t take forever, but lay a groundwork of a few weeks or months. It’s worth it.
Treat small victories as major accomplishments (because they are). Enjoy the awesome privilege of being called the pastor.
Pastoring takes time and is all about relationships. Remind yourself of that truth regularly, and it will continue to pay off over the years
Only a few people will remember how you started; most will remember how you end. However, the latter is determined in large part by the former.
Start well and remain steadfast in prayer. I’m rooting for you.
Josh is pastor of Second Baptist Church in Conway, Arkansas, husband of Jacki, and father of three boys.