Today is July 1st, the day that new pastoral appointments take place in United Methodist churches across Indiana. If you’re a part of a church receiving a new pastor, don’t forget to provide your pastor and his/her family with radical hospitality. Doing so will help your church and its new pastor get off to a great start, and getting off to a great start will impact your relationship for years to come.
Here are some ideas from Indiana pastors and church members…
1. No pastor can do it all. Have realistic expectations. Prioritize which roles are most important for the church (e.g. preaching, visitation, counseling, youth work, fund raising, facilities management, etc.). Staff to compensate for the pastor’s weaknesses. Remember that the biblical model is that the pastor is to equip the laity to do the ministry.
2. Just as the congregation may be going through grief at the loss of their pastor (and family), remember that the incoming pastor (and family) may be going through a time of grief as a result of leaving their friends at the former church. Be gentle with them.
In the first few months…
1. Hold a welcoming dinner/reception that the congregation is invited to attend.
2. Schedule small-group meetings in homes that allow the pastor to meet parishioners.
3. Provide a welcoming gift of a night out with baby sitting provided if needed.
4. Provide a map with parishioners’ homes identified (in the case of a smaller church).
5. Help them locate grocery stores, good doctors, childcare providers, banks, hairdressers/barbers, vets, etc.
6. Staff-Paris Relations Committee (SPRC) chair meet regularly (monthly or every-other month) with the pastor; ask if there is anything s/he is reluctant to share.
7. Have the SPRC meet each month (at least the first three months) to a) give feedback and encouragement, b) with the pastor, identify realistic goals for the church for the first six months, c) review what their expectations are, and d) how things are approved in the church. This will help greatly eliminate problems later on.
8. If the pastor has children at home, encourage parishioners with children to befriend them.
9. Encourage the use of name tags Sunday mornings and at meetings.
1. SPRC make sure to communicate; make it a priority! Do NOT assume the pastor is aware of a situation, understands a need, or comprehends what’s expected. Tell them! Also communicate with the rest of the congregation. Keep them informed.
2. Encourage them. Words of encouragement should exceed words of criticism 7 to 1.
3. At least two persons on SPRC should be unabashedly supportive of the pastor.
4. The lay leader should help lead. Don’t make the pastor have to lead every effort.
5. Make sure the pastor has regular time off to play, be with their family, and to pray.
6. Be as generous with your pastor as s/he is with you. In other words, if there is a problem with the bathroom in the parsonage or the mower needs replaced, do it right. Do it now! Even when funds are tight, if the pastor is providing committed, loving leadership for the church, make sure they are given appropriate raises in compensation.
7. Intentionally support the pastor (and their family) with prayer. Have the SPRC members commit to praying for the pastor (and their family) and ask the pastor to pray for the SPRC. Have at least a couple SPRC members commit to pray with the pastor prior to worship services.