It’s been 10 years since I’ve been the “new” pastor. I was the new DS two years ago, but I found that was a little different than being the “new” pastor. I would like to say I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be the “new” guy, but that’s not true. I still remember the feeling. It’s an equal mixture of joy, excitement, anticipation, and anxiety.
Jennifer Williamson wrote a blog this week entitled “What Your New Pastor Wants You to Know.” It offered some sage advice for congregations (and good reminders for the “new” pastor). Since I’m not one for reinventing the wheel, I want to re-post her list of things (with my own parenthetical commentary) we all can remember as we go through this “new” transition. Perhaps it’ll be helpful to some of my colleagues who are making the transition, too.
1. You are grieving the loss of someone you cared about. I am grieving the loss of a whole congregation (or at least a great job) I cared about. Instead of closing ourselves off and letting the grief become a barrier, let us use that as common ground or a place to bond.
2. You do things differently than I am used to. I will do things differently than you are used to. Let us keep that in mind, extend grace to one another (I’ve been accused of preaching nothing but “grace and Andy Griffith,” but I’m OK with that–I love being known as an apostle of grace), be open to new things and communicate as honestly, effectively and clearly as we can.
3. Try to find out who I am before placing on me all of your expectations of who you think I should be (and I promise not to place any unfair expectations on you).
4. There is a lot to learn in a short amount of time, so I will not have answers to all of your questions. Please be patient and help me learn more about the community (it actually helps that I grew up near Monroe and have been back for two years).
5. Your previous pastor should not return for weddings, funerals, baptisms, or social functions for at least the first year. This first year is important in building a relationship and trust with your new pastor. Please do not ask, as it places everyone in an uncomfortable position.
6. It may take a while to learn everyone’s name (actually, I do names fairly well–the problem in Monroe is there are just so many of them). Some of you may have names that are strikingly similar to people from the last congregation I served, and I will get confused. Please begin our conversations by reminding me of your name even after you feel I should know it.
7. God is capable, present and grace (there’s my favorite word again) is abundant. Let us live in that knowledge together!
8. That container of cookies (or BBQ) you brought by as my family was unpacking means so much more than you will ever know!
9. Please do not assume I know about a regular event in the church or in the community, or that I know who is in the hospital. I need you to give me information!
10. My heart is open.
I could add as an 11th one to her list that I am so excited to be the “new” pastor again, but that I also pray it is the last time I get to play that role. We have so many connections to this area, and we feel like we’re home. I wish June 25th would hurry up and get here. I’m ready to be the “new” guy.
Until next time, keep looking up…