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10 Suggestions to Welcome a New Pastor

By August 25, 2018Change, Church

As a pastor and through my online ministry, I would frequently receive questions from churches who wanted to welcome a new pastor and do it well. I’m revising a post I’ve written and shared before, but it’s timely now. As I type this, I’m preaching this weekend for a church that will soon be getting a new pastor. The church I recently left as pastor is voting on a new pastor – this weekend.

I have some advice to give a congregations on how to best help the pastor and pastor’s family feel welcome and acclimate.

10 suggestions for welcoming a new pastor:

Pray for the pastor daily – It’s something I’m almost expected to say, but there is truly no greater comfort for a pastor than to know people are praying for them by name. As a pastor, I could literally feel people praying for me at times. On an especially stressful day, I would sense God’s protection by the prayers of God’s people. I believed in prayer so much I always had a personal prayer team. (I’m in the process of organizing one now in my new role with Leadership Network.)

Love and honor the pastor’s family – This includes helping them acclimate to the community. Especially if there are still children at home, they will need more family time at home, not less. The family is stretched and stressed – out of their comfort zone and pulled in so many directions. Let the pastor have adequate time at home. Let the family time be honored as much as their time at church.

Tell the pastor and family your name each time you meet – And, then tell them again. And again, if necessary. Learning names may be the hardest thing a new pastor has to do. Give them ample time to learn yours and, please, never trick them or ask them, “Do you remember my name?” That may be one of the hardest questions I received as pastor, because I always wanted to and couldn’t always. (Frankly, sometimes on Sunday mornings I couldn’t remember my own name.)

Don’t gossip about the pastor or family – There will almost always be changes when a new pastor comes to a church. If you don’t understand something simply ask. Be very careful not to propagate misunderstandings. Be a positive voice for the future. And, stop gossip and rumors as soon as you hear them.

Speak encouragement – Say, things like, “Pastor, I’m here to help.” And, mean it. Find positive things with which to encourage the pastor and family. Send a personal, hand-written note. And, don’t write, “I’m thankful for you, but…”. Just say thank you. Those notes are kept forever.

Introduce the pastor to leaders – In the church and in the community, it is helpful if the pastor knows the influencers whom they will likely encounter during their ministry. The earlier they can know them the better.

Let the pastor set the pace – It will take a while for a new pastor to figure out their stride. Give them your understanding during this time. They may not make every visit you want them to make. And, depending on the size of the church they may not ever make every visit you think they should. There’s only so much time in a day. They may not place priority where you think it needs to be placed. They may not introduce change as fast as you want them to or change may seem too fast fo you. This is all part of the newness in a time of transition. Let them set the pace – especially in the early days.

Don’t offer a million suggestions – There will be time for that, but the new pastor needs time to learn the church. Most likely you’re already doing lots of things – some good and maybe some not so good. Let them learn who you are as a church, before you fill their head with too many new ideas.

Don’t prejudge their performance – A new pastor will make their own mistakes. Don’t hold a previous pastor’s mistakes against them. Don’t assume, based on their history or your expectations of them, that they will perform a certain way. They may. They may not. When I went to my last church I had come out of the church planting world and into an established church. I think some people assumed I’d wear sandals my first Sunday. I didn’t. The whole time I was there. (And, I regret that. Just kidding.)

Extend the honeymoon – Honestly, it usually seems too short anyway. If the pastor begins to make any changes at all, some people lose faith in them. A new pastor needs time to acclimate. They need time to learn you and the church. Keep loving and supporting them, even when changes become harder to make and harder to accept. If God brought the pastor to your church, God wants to use them there. Let God do as God intended.

Those are my suggestions. Of course, this is a general post. It is one of principle, not a specific post to your exact context. Most likely, for those reading this, I won’t know your church or your new pastor. I do hope these can help a few churches.

Pastors, anything you would add?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 31 Comments

  • Karen says:

    My church is about to call an interim minister to our church. I found your ideas presented in the article to be very good! (Some, I had never thought about.) I would love to share your ideas verbally or possibly in print with the rest of our congregation. Would that be okay with you?

  • Beth Piwell says:

    Our church recently called a new pastor. I am on a team to help the transition go smoothly. I am wondering if we can have your permission to write the 10 Ways to Welcome a New Pastor in Style in a format appropriate for our bulletin. Also, may we make minor changes to fit our situation? ie. #9 we might add something to the effect of… not to expect the new pastor to walk in the footsteps of our previous pastor.

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  • jessica says:

    Very interesting breakdown, indeed. It’s nice to have such information available in one location and some ideas for new and different directions to take to help one stand out.

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  • margaretfeinberg says:

    Great suggestions, Ron!

  • @ltbaxter says:

    Thanks so much! What a great list 🙂 I'm still shaking my head… what are the odds?!

  • Eldonna says:

    As a pastor's wife I can tell you the best welcome we ever had at a new church. The parsonage was sparkling clean, freshly painted where needed. Not easy as the previous pastor had moved out only the day before. People were there to unpack, wash, and stow dishes, pans, etc. They put things where I indicated, very little rearranging was needed later. People stopped by as movers unloaded furniture, and they each brought a single food item. Their arrival times were staggered, and the items were well planned. We received sandwiches, veggies, fruit, and a watermelon, pasta salad, paper plates, plastic forks. There was also milk, cereal, bread, punch, potatoes, meat, cookies, ice cream, chocolate syrup. Lots of things! We were able to feed ourselves, our sons, and the workers on the moving van. There was time to talk to people as they stopped by, so I learned their names. When the truck left, people came by to help make the beds. THEN, even though we had all that bounty, someone came by to tell us we were going to their house to relax with a hot home-cooked meal. Amazing! We were able to come home, shower, hop in bed, and rest! They took care of many of our immediate needs and we knew the names and something about quite a few people.

    Quite a contrast to the times we had to unload the truck into a house that had not been vacuumed and had items left behind in closets and cupboards. One place that happened turned out to be a wonderful church for us, but it was no fun packing other people's things, and washing grape jelly off kitchen shelves before we could start unpacking alone. When the kids were hungry we had to drive to the county seat to find a place to eat — back in the day when there were fewer places to eat. Quite a contrast.

  • kmac4him

    Good post thanks. I really like that you brought up "assumptions" I think that is such a bad habit that we naturally fall into and we need NOT too because it really hurts relationship building, especially in a new pastor situation.

  • Tony Dye says:

    Sort of echoing Kathy's comments, I'm not a pastor, but the issues are similar for all of us. I especially like your comments on "tell your name, again, and again." Consider some of these same thoughts for church visitors, new staff members, contract workers, etc. Here's a wild thought: maybe people could wear nametags. Oh yeah, forgot, most have already tried that 🙂

    Thanks for your great ideas, Ron.

  • charles stone

    Ron, great post. So many churches just don’t know how.

  • bryankr

    My Church recently brought a new Minister of Youth on board. He and the Pastor were the only paid staff members. Within 2 months of coming, he had graduated, gotten married, and the Pastor took another Church! The Pastor had no more than gotten down the road when 2 different factions in the Church showed up at his office with their agendas; each saying, now that " That Pastor is gone….." . Every day, I expected to see him pack up. He hasn't, which says a lot for him! Instaed, he and I have begun a Bible study that lets us meet once a week for prayer and discussion. He needs more experience than anything else, human wise, but , he has a lot going for Spiritually! A great heart for ministry. I'm glad you wrote this post, it gives me a better idea what I can do for he and his wife. Thanks!

    • ronedmondson says:

      Good word. Thanks!

    • Greg D. says:

      What's the deal with Senior/Lead pastors leaving shortly after associate/youth pastors come on board? The same thing happened to me at my first associate pastorate and it also happened to the associate pastor I did my internship under!

      • ronedmondson says:

        Hmmm. Don't know the answer to that one. Often the other way around.

        • bryankr

          That has been of some debate for a while! The Pastor seems to have had an agenda in mind when we sat down as a Youth Search Committee. We were looking for, and put out the word for, a Full Time Youth Minister, he said it was necessary to change it to Assoc. Pastor/ Youth Min. He stated that no one would accept a position listed like that, it needed to be re-worded to be considered. We changed it, found a good man for the job, and the Pastor left. Sounded kinda fishy to me.
          That's why I have been so impressed with this young man! When he left, things got rough quick! Honeymoon was over, and it was time to fasten his seatbelt; His wife was right there with him, and hasn't flinched yet! I am so glad he asked me to join him in the Bible study, gives me the chance to listen to him, hopefully, mentor him, but mostly pray with him!

  • kathyfannon

    I'm not a pastor, but having been new to numerous communities, he may appreciate knowing where the good school districts are, doctors names, dentists names, where the best places to shop are (grocery, department stores, etc), and where to go for a haircut, and most important…a good restaurant or coffee shop! Along with having to acclimate to a new church family, his family will likely have to acclimate to a new city.