Two new pastors recently stepped into their respective pulpits who are very important to me: my successor in Arkansas and my new pastor in Tennessee. I am thinking of how I - and others - can help them and their families during their huge transitions.
Here are a few ways we can help our new pastors in their transition.
1. Pray For Them Daily
The Apostle Paul often asked churches to pray for him, and I am doing that on behalf of your new pastor and his family. Pray for them by name every day because there will never be a day when they are not the enemy’s #1 target in your church and community.
2. Give Them Some Space
This is not just a ministry transition, it is a life transition. Some of the most emotionally exhaustive transitions happen at the exact same time: a new career, house, school and church. This can collectively be quite overwhelming.
In my last pastorate, I made that mistake by saying “yes” to just about every ministry opportunity that came my way. I remember arriving home each day so exhausted that I had absolutely nothing left to give my family.
3. Encourage Their Friendships
This is the other side of the ministry coin. Pastors do not need to choose between suffocation and isolation. Since isolation is Satan’s greatest scheme against your pastor, he and his family must be encouraged to develop friendships outside of the parameters of the new pastorate.
Some enthusiastic church members will innocently assume that means “the more the merrier.” They unrealistically expect to be their new pastor’s best friend. Friendships usually happen naturally and slowly, and between people who are experiencing the same life-stage.
4. Protect Them From Over-Exposure
My wife was fortunate to have a few loyal friends at each of the three churches I pastored. Since Janet is an introvert, I eventually understood that “few” was a good thing. Most ministry couples will not be made of two extroverts, so don’t presume anything from your experience with former staff and spouses.
Leaders in the church can help their new pastor’s family by protecting their need for privacy and friendships. A pastor must shepherd his own flock first, and for him to do that successfully, both he and the other leaders need to make sure his schedule is not too full on the front end.
5. A Note To Former Pastors
I am experiencing a very strong sense of joy because my former church now has a shepherd who will love, lead, and feed them well. The best thing I can do for Jeff is to cheer him on from the balcony...which I do enthusiastically, every time he calls me.
The key to our relationship is that he calls me, not the other way around. I make it my business to stay out of his business. Some former pastors struggle with that because their members won’t let them go. On some level we don’t want them to, but on the deepest level, we know we should.
What are some other ways we can help new pastors and their families in their transition? I would love to hear from you here or @markdance.