As new leaders step into their ministry calling, we must prioritize discipleship and enabling them to find success in their new role.
By Aaron Summers
Summer is often a time of change for ministers. Throughout our ministry, our family moved to a new church four times during the summer. For many churches, a new “church year” begins in September. So, you might also have new teachers and leaders. We cannot forget discipleship in a season of adjustment for churches and ministry leaders. Let’s look at four types of new leaders needing our help and development.
- The recently called – These have just answered a call to ministry from within your church. We cannot overlook them. In their book Calling out the Called, Shane Pruitt and Scott Pace give pastors a clear vision for discipling those called to ministry leadership.
- The first timer – This leader is stepping into a ministry or leadership role for the first time. They could be from within the church or coming to the church.
- The promotion – This person is a leader who moved into a ministry position from within the church. For example, this could be a staff member who moved into a pastoral/elder role.
- The transfer – This person came to you from another church and is most common for staffing ministry-level positions.
Now, what do these ministry leaders have in common? These five truths.
1. They are excited
Capitalizing on this is helpful for the whole church. A rising tide lifts all boats, and this is also true in the church. Enjoy the ride with them. Helping new leaders is more than just announcing their arrival. Senior leadership needs to share in the excitement.“Helping new leaders is more than just announcing their arrival. Senior leadership needs to share in the excitement.” — @aaronwsummers Click To Tweet
One way churches might do this is by having a church dinner honoring the new leader. Church members get to hear this leader’s testimony, call, and how God is working in their life. This is a special time for them to vision cast if that is a part of their position. This builds momentum regardless of which type of new leader you have.
2. They have expectations
Actively listen to them. Get a feel for their heart and passion. This is the energy you wanted, and now you have it in someone stepping into a new leadership role. You will be tempted to correct them too soon. You will be tempted to discourage their ideas saying, “We’ve tried that,” in an attempt to help them succeed. There is a time and place for those conversations—but not at first.
The seasoned pastor (and spouse) could take the new leader (and spouse) to dinner to hear their expectations. Another idea would be to allow the new leader to discuss expectations with the personnel team or similar managing group.
3. They need encouragement
They need us to be patient. In their excitement, they might over-promise or overdo it a bit. A great way to help here is by providing a mentor. If your church had a search team involved in the process, they should stay on as a transition team for the first six to 12 months. The search team knows them best and will already have connections. I would recommend meeting with the new leader once a month to check in on physical, emotional, spiritual, and family health.
The senior leader should also come alongside and provide encouragement. Encouragement is best felt when it matches their love language. It is important to understand how the new leader receives and feels support. I do not discount the gift card approach. However, if possible, senior leadership needs to invest in these new leaders emotionally.
Give them opportunities to serve. In small or mid-sized churches, the pastor has often been the sole leader. He is excited to bring on a new minister but hesitant to give them the reigns of leadership. Millennials and Gen Z leaders will thrive if given the parameters of the job and the freedom to work. Maybe you hate making announcements and want them to do them from now on. Don’t just hand over the job. Sit down and discuss it with the new leader. With clarity, share your expectations and then release them.“Millennials and Gen Z leaders will thrive if given the parameters of the job and the freedom to work.” — @aaronwsummers Click To Tweet
4. They need education
Don’t assume knowledge. The transfer or first-timer might not really know you, your church, or your community. A great way to assist new ministry leaders is by developing a “new leader” training. This would look and feel like a “new members class.”
Onboarding is crucial. Train them about the church’s history and makeup. Gather demographic and psychographic data to help them fully understand the landscape. The first timer may not understand budgets. Explain how they work and what to include when it comes time to propose their next annual needs.
For the recently called, I recommend having a book discussion time. I use Ministry Is by Dave Earley and Ben Gutiérrez. It is a practical and well-developed book for various topics and conversations.
5. They want evaluation
Especially if the new leader is a Millennial or Gen Zer, they expect feedback. So, give them what they crave. Meet with them each week one-on-one to review the items already listed. Have a conversation and build a relationship. We often underestimate the value of feedback, because we hate the notion of the dreaded evaluation. Proper feedback is important for maintaining communication and monitoring everyone’s expectations.“Proper feedback is important for maintaining communication and monitoring everyone’s expectations.” — @aaronwsummers Click To Tweet
When giving feedback, using the “sandwich” rule is important. The One-Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson is a great resource to refresh us on giving positive and negative feedback. We may be quick to give negative feedback, but we must be thoughtful even in the way we give this feedback. And we need to provide a balance of positive items.
Senior leaders must provide enormous support and practical opportunities as new ministers and leaders step into the light. Setting them up for success is crucial to the vitality of the church. This new leader will likely accomplish tasks the senior leader was handling. Now, he is freed to find joy in the areas of strength, and the new leader is released to serve in the joy of their strengths. What an exciting time for the church.
For permission to republish this article, please email Marissa Postell Sullivan.
Aaron serves as the pastor of First Baptist Church in Crowley, Texas, and as a church consultant with Texas Baptists. He and his wife Dulcie have two kids in college and enjoy traveling in their RV.