by Andrew Hebert
In Part 1, I discussed the first five of ten practical priorities when you arrive at a new church. Here are the remaining five priorities for a pastor or leader who is serving in a new church or organization.
- Build positive momentum by accumulating and celebrating some early wins. Every church experiences constant momentum. This momentum is tilted in either an upward or downward trajectory. Compound interest is the mathematics behind momentum. Downward momentum begets downward momentum and upward momentum begets upward momentum. Many churches experience downward momentum after a pastor leaves and during the interim period before the new pastor begins. Therefore, many pastors arrive at their new church to meet hurt, doubt, pessimism. It is important to reverse the course of any downward momentum but celebrating early wins. Find occasion to celebrate baptisms, new members, inspiring stories of how God is at work in your church and city, volunteers or staff who are doing a good job, financial or other goals that are set and met, and so forth. If you can accumulate and then celebrate some early wins in your church, it will begin to change the atmosphere of your church from pessimism to optimism, from negativity to confidence, and from doubt to hope.
- Gain trust and credibility through consistent character. If the church’s former pastor was trusted or beloved, you may begin your tenure with a certain level of “borrowed trust.” By virtue of being “the pastor,” you will have a certain level of credibility. However, you must begin to earn the trust of the people immediately. While the people may trust you at a surface level, they will be looking for evidence of consistency and character in your leadership. They will want to know if you are planning on staying or if you’ll jump ship at the next opportunity for a “bigger” or “better” church. They will want to know if you really mean what you preach. Some may want to test the resiliency of your leadership and ability to handle pushback. You can instill a sense of confidence in your leadership by being consistent and by displaying Christ-like character. A pastor’s ethos is important. Model Christ-likeness, be transparent in who you are, both in your character but also in your weaknesses, and allow the people to see that you are who you appear to be and that you are capable of leading them to where God wants them to be.
- Create a sense of urgency. In many cases, the new pastor needs to extend a call to the church to awaken from mediocrity and apathy. It is the normal course of churches and other organizations to enter into plateau or decline over time. The calling of a new pastor is an opportune moment to call the church to a renewed commitment in their walk with Christ and their engagement with the church. If the church is unhealthy or dysfunctional, it is important to raise awareness about the urgency of what will happen if the church doesn’t change. If the church is relatively healthy, it is still important to create a sense of urgency about reaching the new heights God has for the church in the future. Preach and engage with people passionately. Show enthusiasm about what you are doing. Let the people know the urgency of the times, the need of the lost world, the role God has called them to fulfill, and the importance of spreading the fame of Jesus to the nations.
- Rally people to a better future and instill a sense of confidence in the future. Ronnie Floyd has said that vision is rallying people to a better future. The pastor should be the chief encourager in the church. Exhort and encourage the people. Motivate and inspire your people to dream big and believe God for the future of the church. When Howard Schultz returned to Starbucks as CEO a number of years ago, he said that he had to address the collective doubt that had swept into the company by instilling confidence in the future of the organization. Without confidence, Schultz said, his employees couldn’t perform. Schultz understood the importance of pathos in the leader. If you aren’t passionate and confident about the future of the church, your church members won’t be either. Help them to believe that God has plans to give them a hope and a future.
- Prioritize your family. If you don’t have a healthy home, you will be of no use to the church. Your church can call any number of men as pastor. Your wife and kids have only one you. Do not sacrifice your family on the altar of your ministry. Jealously guard your day off. Prioritize date night and time with the kids. Work hard at helping your family adjust to your new home, neighborhood, city, and church family. Creating good memories early helps to make the new church and city become home. Be careful about complaining in front of them when you encounter difficulties in the church. Help them love the church and the city in which you serve. Take them on fun outings, eat at great local restaurants, and find things to love about where you are. Don’t be afraid to set and protect clear boundaries so as to protect both your family and the church.
Serving a local church as a pastor is a great privilege, responsibility, and joy. Starting well is integral to finishing well. Focus on these ten priorities in your first year and you will have a strong start.
Andrew Hebert is the lead pastor of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, Texas. He and his wife Amy have four children. He is a graduate of Criswell College and holds a doctorate in leadership and discipleship from Southern Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter at @andrewhebert86.