I was in youth ministry for the better part of 10 years before I took on my first pastorate. I have not had seminary training, yet. I do not have all the answers. This is coming from my own experience and what I have learned within the first year of pastoral ministry as a new pastor. So, over the next several days, I would like to give my advice to those men who will be taking on their first pastorate roles in a new Church.
The very first thing I would say to someone stepping into their first role as head pastor would be: Love the people.
So, you got the phone call. The search committee wants to bring you in for the church to vote on you to be their new pastor. The vote goes splendid. You begin to make that list of the things you want to see changed. Stop. The first thing would not be to make changes. The people there have been there for years. The last thing they want to see happen is have some young know-it-all come in and change things up. Don’t. Love the people first.
The people want to see, not how much you know, not how creative you are, but how much you care. Take your first week and visit the shut-ins. Introduce yourself. Grab lunch with your deacons, get to know them. Find out who’s in the hospital. Visit. Make phone calls to different members introducing yourself and getting to know them. Love the people.
Pastor Kent Hughes was asked one time if he was stepping into a new Church and he had the choice of only taking two books with him, what would he take. He said he would take the Bible and the Church directory.
I carried my Church directory with me as if it were the Bible, itself. I wanted to know faces, names, families, and see who was new or who wasn’t attending anymore. Love the people.
I tried to find out if there was anyone nervous about me being their pastor. I was 29 when I first stepped on with no seminary training, of course there were some. I made it a priority to reach out to them and to not be afraid of them. I wanted them close. Love your people.
I sought to spend as much time as I could with people. I wasn’t too worried about reaching people in the community who didn’t come to the Church because my focus needed to be on the ones I had at the time.
The people are looking to you to care for them. If they don’t see you care, then they won’t care to see you go.
Love your people.
You can’t lead your Church somewhere where they don’t trust you to go. But if they see you love them, that trust comes easier. Before you make any kind of changes, focus on loving the people and getting to know them. Love your people.