7 Essential Guidelines for Pastors Entering a New Pastorate

As sure as there is a right way to leave your pastorate, there is a great way for you to enter a new pastorate. Dare I tread into this highly opinionated subject? Somebody needs to go there. Right?

lightstock_56137_small_williamThe proper way to enter a new pastorate begins with leaving your former pastorate correctly. Read about “the right way to leave here. If you did not leave with the right motives, you are destined for a turbulent landing.

Deal with any unresolved issues before you move forward (read “How Not to Leave Your Pastoratehere). If you left the last church because you were running away from problems, they will catch up with you.  You will find another set of similar problems in your near future. Problems in ministry can not be avoided. Therefore, deal with them as they arise and learn all you can from them. This will help you and the congregation maintain spiritual health.

Assuming now that you left the last place with the proper motives and according to God’s timing, you are ready to move forward. You are spiritually healthy and ready for the next assignment. Right?

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What is your modus operandi? Is this your second, third, or fourth pastorate? Have you learned anything about proper transitions?

Every church is different. Every pastor is different. Some churches want no change, regardless of what they told you during the candidating process. Some new pastors want to change everything as soon as they arrive. Both extremes should be avoided to the uttermost.

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Here’s my reality. No one can provide a proven strategy, guaranteed to work with every pastor and church match-up (tweet this). Each process needs to be customized by how the Spirit of God is leading that particular transition.

Nevertheless, I can share some thoughts to serve as guidelines. Use these to develop your entering strategy and the rate at which you facilitate change.

  1. You are not the only player in this drama. There are lay leaders and staff members for which this transition is difficult too. Give them some Christ-like tender loving care.
  2. You will have an immediate request for a brief meeting from a handful of folks in your first few weeks. Be careful with this interaction. Some want to tell you that they campaigned for you to be their pastor. Some are not mature and seek to manipulate you. Some are power players that want to set you straight. I suggest you cautiously overlook these initial meetings. Humor them and pray for them but do not cave into their pressure.
  3. You should not make any promises that would bind your future. For example, upon entering the pastorate you could say, “I won’t be making any changes for six months.” That’s a vow you shouldn’t make. Change is a part of this transitional process. There is no need to smother what could be God’s will.
  4. You should know that both assumptions and presumptions can be dangerous. Some congregations assume their new pastor has taken the time to research their history and knows the obstacles that tripped former pastors. Some new pastors like to presume this adage; “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission.” Both can lead to early troubles.
  5. Your beginning title is, pastor, but you are not really in charge. This means you are not the church’s chief decision maker. Most congregations of less than one hundred will not trust you to be that person for a few years. In the eyes of the most influential in the congregation, you are the preacher and the family chaplain. That’s not ideal, but your role can evolve and improve with tenure.
  6. You need to build relationships with the key people of your congregation. Who makes up this group will vary depending on the congregational size. Board members and staff members are where you should begin. Listen, learn, and befriend them. You will find it much easier to lead your congregation and reach your community with a group of friends than with a group of adversaries.
  7. You should get to know the outgoing pastor, if possible. You might not become best friends, but it could be a beneficial relationship. Don’t assume your predecessor was a know-nothing hireling. There was likely some good reasoning behind most of what you’re walking into. Don’t feel threatened by your predecessor’s insights.

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On the way to getting established, I would advise you to ask questions. Ask lots of them.

Therefore, I must ask you, what have I left out of this list? What else would you add to these guidelines? Join the conversation, leave a comment, and let’s pray for pastors and churches in transition.

7 thoughts on “7 Essential Guidelines for Pastors Entering a New Pastorate

    • I’m always in favor of pastoral decisions being cleared with systems and structures so that one person cannot “lord” authority over a congregation. However, in most established (traditional) churches a pastor in years 1-3 of their tenure will have very little influence and their ideas for strengthening and expanding the church are given little thought. Not taken seriously, these pastors get frustrated because they have great vision and want to lead with it. It is usually in years 5-7 that the pastor’s influence has grown enough that their ideas are given great credibility. Then, they can lead with a vision the way they wanted to in years 1-3. At that point, they will be perceived by most as the chief decision maker because their leadership has grown to the point that theirs is the most influential voice. That role of decision maker / visionary leader is slowly earned. I trust that makes some sense.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Excellent thoughts! I would recommend contacting any pastors who were terminated or accused of being unbiblical. I talked with my predecessor on two occasions, and he was not straightforward either time. People will often be polite and not reveal the truth because they feel they might hinder the will of God.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Matthew. I’m glad you enjoyed this one. That’s also a good idea to contact those pastors that left under unfavorable circumstances. Insight can be gained from them if they have been able to heal and gain perspective.

      Liked by 1 person

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