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First days in a new church

Discussion in 'Pastoral Ministries' started by glfredrick, Dec 23, 2011.

  1. glfredrick

    glfredrick New Member

    Aug 5, 2010
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    This is primarily intended to be a discussion for pastors who have at some point in time been called to be the shepherd of a flock. Others can chime in, but please identify yourself early in your response as to whether you are looking at this from a pastor's or layperson's perspective (And yes, I understand that we are all ministers of the gospel, but we are not all pastors, thanks!).

    My questions for discussion involves your practical plan of purpose (how is that for alliteration?) when first arriving on the field of a new congregation. What did you do first? Did it have the desired results? What might you have changed if you had a "do over?" Did you go too fast? To slow? Get in trouble? Change the church?

    I start my next church Jan. 1, and this is not my first merry-go-round ride... :laugh: Just wondering how others have done what they have done and if they have wisdom to share that would help others.

    Let's try to keep this upbeat! :wavey:
  2. Tom Bryant

    Tom Bryant Active Member

    Apr 13, 2006
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    Good thread!

    I started visiting the men at their work places for lunch. I asked them about the church and their thoughts on strengths and needed improvements. They were right on in their assessments, which differed in some aspects from the picture the search team had presented. (I know, Surprise!... Surprise!... Surprise!) Some of their suggestions and ideas we implemented soon and some took awhile, like the updating of our auditorium.

    On Saturdays, my wife and i would meet with a member in their own neighborhood and prayer walk with them. We got to know them and meet some neighbors. This wasn't as successful as I had hoped. I was wanting them to feel a responsibility for their community. Some did, too many didn't.

    The 3rd thing we did in the first 6 months was change the worship services from very structured to a more friendly kind of atmosphere. Osprey was a small community that was formerly a fishing village but it was being eaten up by Sarasota to the north and Venice to the south. (neither of those are big places, so it shows how small we were) But we were very formal service, singing the Doxology with choir robes in a community where most people thot business casual was being way overdressed, so we made the services a little less stuffy.

    If I had it to do over, I'd do more organized outreach events at the church such as Street fairs, health care events and the like to get people to be on church property.

    Some thot we were going way too fast. No one thought we were going too slow (except me). I got in trouble most with the worship services, in which we did a mix of contemporary and hymns. We soon had to go to 2 services with one being more praise and worship and the other 'all hymns all the time' which helped.
  3. North Carolina Tentmaker

    Sep 19, 2003
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    Tom’s comments are good but I would add this – LISTEN!

    Up to now for the most part you were selling yourself to the church. You did a lot of the talking. Now you need to do like Tom said and visit and get to know the church members, but as you do you need to listen to what they have to say.

    Before you attempt any changes you need to understand the power structure of the church. My biggest mistake in my first couple of churches was assuming that I was in charge. Talking privately with the church members and listening to what they have to say is a big first step. Don’t assume the deacons or people in designated leadership positions are in charge either. My experience has been that every church has a few key families who’s patriarchs (or matriarchs) have a lot more pull than anyone else. Try to make changes without their support and you will fail, but often their support is easy to gain if you talk to them first and listen to their input.

    I would also look over your church rolls. See who is still listed as a member but has not attended services recently. You need to go visit them. Have they left the church? When did they and why? “Hello, I am glfredrick and I am the new pastor at so and so church. I would like to introduce myself to you since you are a member.” Find out why they left or stopped attending. Learn the history of your congregation.
  4. PeterM

    PeterM Member

    Jul 14, 2006
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    I think Tom mentioned some good things to do which followed my initial steps once I had jumped in... start building relationships!!! Spend quality time with those you serve... share meals, play games, learn what hobbies your people enjoy, etc. Be transparent by giving them the opportunity to get to know you outside the Sunday experience.

    I would actually encourage a prospective pastor during the call process to be upfront and open. Share the principles, values, and vision you have that are universal to every local church. If you are already aware of something that you will be addressing, bring it up. Talk about expectations, missions, and anything else that would set you apart. My own "philosophy" is to be as forward and upfront as I can be. I would rather dissuade a prospective church or search team on the front end than have issues later on down the line.

    Once you're there, it's all about relationships, building trust, and loving folks as you preach, teach, and cast vision.

    Be blessed in your new place of service!
    #4 PeterM, Dec 23, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 23, 2011
  5. preachinjesus

    preachinjesus Well-Known Member
    Site Supporter

    Feb 9, 2004
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    Well that's a complicated question, but a very good question.

    In general when you get to a new church you've got a limited time for a grace-period, or honeymoon. You know this, I won't waste our time with it.

    During the first six months in the last church I was a new staff member at I did the following things:
    * Got the attendance, giving (not specific family info,) demographic, guests, and other pertinent data for the previous 3 years and combed it for trends and identifiers. (Yes, I believe healthy churches are growing churches.)

    * Identified the top 50 (maybe in your church this is less...maybe top 10%) families in commitment and leadership, the "bell cows." I took them all to lunch or dinner and asked questions about their perspective on the church. I made a focused effort not to talk but to listen.

    * I took every significant staff member to lunch (for us it was director level and above) to talk to them about where we were heading, what they could expect, to hear some of their thoughts, and encourage them in service.

    * Since I had the first three series planned out I had about five months before I needed to really work on Sunday prep. So I spent a lot of time getting perspective and setting out a strategy for the immediate 18 months.

    * I solved issues that everybody was bothered about but nobody wanted to handle. For instance everyone said (in one way or another) they hated the color of the entryway. So we painted it by the end of the first month. One of our hardest working assistants was dogged with a terrible printer, so I bought her a brand new laser printed. The adult ministry was sitting on metal folding chairs for their groups, we bought 400 new padded chairs. Little stuff meant a TON. (Honestly this gave me the most "street cred" for leadership as we moved forward.)

    * Our leadership team organized and led several town hall style meetings on Sunday nights (we don't do Sunday evening services) across the first 12 months to talk about direction, let people ask good questions, and get to know people.

    * Our staff had an intentional retreat 3 months where we talked about where we were going in realistic terms.

    * We nailed Sunday. You gain the most credibility, imho, by making the Sunday experience better than ever and show consistency in leadership change. Sunday is we were "open for business" and we made sure it ran exceedingly well and the experience across all environments was outstanding.

    * We deployed a complete assimilation process (to our staff) and immediately put people in place for effective follow up and intentional connection with guests. If you're gonna lose some people because of transition (it happens) you gotta replace them and nothing wins continued credibility than new, smiling faces joining the church as you get settled.

    Finally, and this isn't a major point but a personal philosophy, I basically believed that I had 3 months of info gathering, followed by 3-5 months of bringing significant change, followed by 6 months of vision casting for long range plans. Everything contained within the first 18 months was vital and necessary and it meant everything for the next 5 years. We were successful because we professionally, authentically, and realistically handled those first 18 months.

    We replaced a minimal amount of staff during that time, specifically the first six months, which helped with our members to see consistency. I brought in three top level staff members I worked with and trusted during that time, but didn't replace anyone. Our first major staff members from the previous leadership group left in an agreeable move to another church and we sent them off with a grand send off to show how happy everyone was.

    Finally, I got the director level staff together once a week where we had a devotional and prayed (Monday mornings at 9:30 am sharp) for our church for an hour every week (with a few holiday exceptions.) That made the most difference. :)

    My context might be different than yours but some things are the same for all churches. Hope it helps. :thumbs:
    #5 preachinjesus, Dec 23, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 23, 2011