Thursday, December 22, 2005

And we're off

We leave today for a rare opportunity to travel over Christmas--to my in-laws in their little town on the prairie. I may not have much internet access for the next 10 days, so I'll see you when I see you.

Meanwhile, post your best wisdom on what to do and what not to do when arriving in a congregation as their new pastor. This wisdom can be based on your experience of this situation as a pastor, a layperson, or someone on a church staff.

See you in 2006! Blessings everyone!

14 comments:

peripateticpolarbear said...

what not to do:
pick your nose, fart, belch, or discuss any of the above on the first day of work.

That's all I got. Obviously, I'm setting the bar really low.

Listing Straight said...

What I have learned for the first year of a new pastorate:
"Please change anything you want- we're ready for change" really means "tell us that what we're doing is okay, that we're okay, and that we're worthy of being loved."

As a friend of mine used to say, take my advice, I'm not using it...
Have a Merry Christmas on the Prarie!

cheesehead said...

Beware of those who "meet you at the train". Especially if they come bearing gifts.

NotShyChiRev said...

I agree with revmom...
Change NOTHING but your underwear and airconditioning filters for the first 6 months....then work your committees for the changes you think are necessary...
The only instances in which I didn't follow that sage advice from seminary were: (1) I stopped the practice of serving only wine at communion immediately--it's a violation church rules and it's horribly insensitive to those in recovery in the congregation and (2) I reinstituted home communion for shut ins.

Apostle John said...

The "change nothing the first year" is good advice that is supported by the Alban Institute. HOWEVER, the people do want to see some leadership and action. I suggest that you focus on getting to know the people. I had people arrange small dinners -- I gave them all my Tuesday nights and had someone organize the dinners -- all I had to do is show up. I always brought name tags and a camera. One digital photo of each group -- with the name tags visible!

When you do go for change -- go for "low hanging fruit" -- easy pickin's with easy success.

Sue said...

What they said: and have a wonderful Christmas!!

Jeff said...

I'd say don't change anything...within reason. I came into a church where all committees other than Consistory (governing board) hadn't met for the better part of 6 months because 'we meet when the pastor tells us to.' I tried organizing a better system based on each committee's work, which has seemed to do okay so far (now I'm starting to revisit that system asking what I'd rather congregants do on weeknights than sit in meetings if they're going to be at church...but that's something else).

I also echo spending a lot of time getting to know people. Visit them, organize dinners/desserts/coffee, and so on. And then after the first year, you'll learn that you still don't know them very well.

Becky Ardell Downs said...

I've heard to watch out for the first people to invite you over for dinner. They're the ones who will cause trouble for you eventually. Has this held true for anyone but me?

cheesehead said...

Becky, yup. See my advice above.

And Apostle John's "low-hanging fruit" approach is a good one. One thing I learned in seminary: You have a limited number of 'coins' to spend in the first year making change. Spend them wisely, and preferably in ways that affirm who and what the congregation was before you got there.

An example: I brought back VBS to a church that hadn't felt as though they had the resources to do it themselves during the long interim period. They really missed it, and my helping them to see that they in fact *could* do it was a real boost to them in terms of seeing themselves as visible in the community. But it meant *changing* a four-year habit of having VBS at a neighboring church to fall back on.

jo(e) said...

My advice: show that you have a sense of humor.

And ask people for help.

see-through faith said...

Pray a lot
Get a circle of friends to pray for you too

and I'd go with ap John's advice - "I had people arrange small dinners -- I gave them all my Tuesday nights and had someone organize the dinners -- all I had to do is show up." And the photo idea /nametage is superb.

Ask questions about favourite music and books - that way you get to know more than the artificial.

and praise all that you see is good :) you can make changes later !

Don't invite anyone to your home yet and find someone outside of the parish on whose shoulders you can cry and with whom you can safely vent.

get a new blog if needs be :)

Preacher Mom said...

You've received some excellent advice so far and I second all of it - particularly the warnings about the first ones at your study door, reaching for low hanging fruit and focusing on relationships. I'll add one more: be sure to set your "rules" and boundaries from the beginning. As the new kid on the block, you will be eager to prove yourself and please them. Just know that if you never take a day off for the first six months, don't expect to be able to take one later!

Songbird said...

I would also suggest you be cautious about people in lay leadership positions who *don't* express an interest in meeting with you. Those were the folk who really wanted me gone before I even arrived.
I hope you have enjoyed your Christmas vacation and wish you so much that is good and fruitful in the New Year.

see-through faith said...

some of these comments give a glimpse into the pain of being a pastor

songbird wrote "I would also suggest you be cautious about people in lay leadership positions who *don't* express an interest in meeting with you. Those were the folk who really wanted me gone before I even arrived." and as I read it I was filled with sadness

I'm a lay speaker (local preacher) and have welcomed a new pastor this year - I'm still struggling to find my place in our church, not because of him but because of language, gender and our church board - but when a bishop (or whoever) appoints someone to be a pastor, I see it as a wonderful thing that any one would come into our broken church.

sorry I'm rambling