All churches go through times of transition. When a pastor has to leave a church (whether for a good reason or a bad reason), the church has to navigate through an interim time and work through the process of finding a new pastor.
When a new pastor has been selected, how should a church welcome him and his family?
I am sharing the following list out of experience rather than expertise.
When God called our family into a new adventure this year, I didn’t know what to expect, but our church family has been incredible with their open doors and open hearts. Some of what is on the list is a process of the church but many of them are practices of particular individuals.
So, here are 10 ways your church can welcome your new pastor:
- Pray for him. I have been amazed at the way people have prayed for us at this church. When you have senior adults who get on their knees to mention my name every morning and children praying with their parents for their pastor at bedtime every night, why shouldn’t I expect God to be at work in this church? Get specific and regular to pray for your pastor.
- Pray with him. While it is great to pray for him, it is also great to pray with him. I have a group of deacons who pray over me every Sunday morning before it is time to preach. I have people who come by the office or call me on the phone just to pray over me. Pastors are often the ones praying for others, it is great to have someone pray for them!
- Leave encouraging notes. I have received encouraging notes in my desk, under my door, on the pulpit, and in the mail. You name it, and these people have loved our family and expressed their love to our family in written communication.
- Surprise his family with a gift. I’m not talking about anything extravagant, but individuals and families have given things to our family to make us feel loved and welcomed. We have received zoo passes, gas cards, gift cards, coloring books, and some of the sweetest things just from individual church members. As we transitioned, these gracious gifts have helped us in the process and allowed us to get to know the area.
- Have realistic expectations for his spouse. When I met with the search committee, one of my main questions was: “What are the expectations for my wife?” Their response is the heartbeat of this church: “We expect her to love Jesus, you, the kids, and be a faithful member of this church. That’s it.” Her husband is already very involved in the church. The best way she can serve the church is not having extra expectations placed on her that would take her away from her family, but by allowing her to take care of her family. They didn’t expect her to teach this or lead that, but to be a good wife, mother, and involved church member. And you know what? That provided for them a better pastor.
- Cherish his children. The children are going through a huge transition. The last thing they need is to be put under a microscope or to feel as if they are being sized up by a new congregation. This church has loved our children before they ever met them. Knowing them by name, this church has prayed, encouraged, invested, and simply loved on our children in a fun and engaged manner. It makes all the difference in the world when your kids want to be there. My oldest son said after being there a few weeks, “Dad, I feel like I’ve been at this church my whole life.”
- Clarify the logistics. In addition to taking on the responsibility of leading this flock, he has to move his family. The more you can clarify the logistics, the easier his transition will be. The church went over and beyond to make sure we understood how our family would be taken care of and removed the questions before we ever had time to ask them. This shouldn’t be an awkward topic. It’s a biblical thing to take care of your pastor (1 Tim. 5:17).
- Pave the way. If you can take care of things that need to be taken care of before he gets there, go for it. Be careful that you don’t change too much because you might make adjustments the next pastor wouldn’t have done. If there are things though that could impede progress once he gets there, do your part to pave the way.
- Come eager. More than a position, your new pastor hopefully desires to see life change. Come eager and prepared to follow the LORD as your pastor preaches, teaches, and counsels. The most humbling and encouraging part of our transition has been the eager willingness of this church to follow the LORD. They were ready to go on day one!
- Follow the biblical direction. Pastors are flawed. We won’t always get it right. But if your new pastor is following the Word, why wouldn’t you follow him? If your pastor is imitating Jesus, you can easily imitate your pastor (1 Cor. 11:1). So, if he is leading in a biblical direction, there is no better way to welcome him than to follow him down that path.
For those with a new pastor or one on the way, I pray this list will help you help him!
I am truly grateful that our church family went over and beyond for us!
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.