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My 7 Strategies in a New Leadership Position

Whenever I enter a new position, I want to be strategic. I’m having to live this advice again, but I’m trying to be strategic.

The first couple years in my last position were challenging and fun at the same time. I met so many wonderful people, but there were more opportunities than time it seemed.

It proved to be a great ministry assignment, and I thank God for the opportunity, but it did require intentionality.

If you know me at all, you know I’m pretty strategic. I was strategic from day one.

Here were 7 elements of my strategy for the beginning days:

Get to know key leaders

I tried to get to know the staff and key influencers in the church. I believe God uses the influence of others to build His church, so I wanted to know who I would be working with in the days to come. Think of it this way – if Moses was implementing the “Jethro method”, his primary energy would need to be communicating and investing in those leaders he enlisted to lead others. I used this approach. If I hoped to make any substantial changes I knew I would need these influencers support.

I’m doing the same again. I’m getting to know board members, substantial donors, key client churches and senior staff members. I can’t know everyone immediately, but I need to know the people who have the largest influence.

Let people get to know me

For an introvert it was exhausting, but I was very visible in the early days. In fact, in my ministry I’m usually always very accessible, just as I am online. I have written before (HERE) I may not always be available but I can always be accessible. I wanted people to feel comfortable with me and trust my leadership, so I think they needed to see me frequently – even more so in the beginning days of my pastorate.

In this new position I don’t have the benefit of Sunday mornings. I have to rely on non-traditional methods. Sometimes people will only learn me by what we post online. I’m trying to keep that in mind as we do.

Set my initial vision

People wanted to know where I was going with my leadership. I set an initial 7 part vision for the people. I really wanted 3 or 4 initial initiatives, but I landed on 7 – because all these seemed important. They were all things I was passionate about implementing. Some got started faster than others – we are really just seeing a couple of them come to fruition – but the church seemed anxious to get behind all of them. And, just to be clear, I didn’t lead all of these initiatives, but I was the chief vision-caster for them.

In this new position, I’m doing something similar. I’m trying to land on a few key areas where we need to grow. The more I limit our reach the better we can focus and succeed.

Identified quick wins

I looked for some things I could immediately impact and change for good. These were things I believed everyone could agree with, didn’t require a lot of resources or long debates. There were a few minor paperwork nuisances which impacted staff morale I changed immediately, for example. I invested energy in some areas of ministry which never received a lot of attention, but motivated people. I re-energized some areas the church had previously been excited about, but weren’t seeing much excitement about currently.

In this new role, I wanted to learn some places people were excited about and would rally around again. In our context, that was doing more with innovation and putting pastors in peer groups. We aren’t there yet, but at least we know where we need to fuel engagement.

Did the unexpected

It seemed like such a small deal, but I roamed the balcony on Sunday mornings. It took a little more time, but it proved to be a big deal. I talked to the person who would be changing my slides on the screen prior to the service. This was a surprise to them. They said it had never happened before, but it proved to be a big deal. I roamed the halls of the offices during the day, walking into people’s offices, and allowing drop-ins to my office when I was available. All unexpected, but it brought very positive feedback.

I could be wrong, and I’m sure people will tell me if I am, but I’m working overtime to make connections in this new role. Some of these connections might take years to make, but I’m trying to shorten the time. I know it’s valuable to building for the future.

Paced myself

I realized I’m only one person and although everyone wanted some of my time and there were more ideas than we could ever accomplish, I knew I would burnout if I didn’t pace myself. This meant I said no to some things – really many things. It wasn’t easy to say no to such eager people, for me or them, but I knew it would prove best in the end if I was able to last for the long run.

I’ve received some similar feedback in this new role. Some staff members have indicated they haven’t spent as much time with me as the would like to in the future. I understand. I feel the same way. I can’t, however, be everywhere I want to be and be effective where I need to be. I have to see the marathon over the sprint.

Moved slowly on the biggies

Being honest, there were some big items I knew I’d like to change immediately. I had enough prior experience, however, to know some changes are too big to launch quickly. I could have. I was in a honeymoon period. I could probably have “gotten away with them”, but the people didn’t really know me yet. I might have won a battle, but I would have lost the war. (To be clear, there wasn’t a battle – just using a cliche.)

I’m there again. There are so many things I “see”, but I can’t yet “realize”. I know I must take things in sequence and with patience. (And patience is hard for me.)

Ever been the new leader or the new pastor? What advice do you have for me?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 17 Comments

  • David Reneau says:

    Being about 6 weeks into a transition myself, I love the insight you’ve shared here. My question is, “Is it OK to not feel right at home?” I was at my last church for seven years, so I barely remember those first few months. It seems every day I come into the office, I’m on the outside and the oddball. The church and staff have been extremely welcoming, so it’s not them. I just can’t shake the feeling.

    • Ron Edmondson says:

      Yes, it takes time to “feel right at home”. Our obedience doesn’t automatically control our emotions. This is sometimes especially true for our spouses.

  • jimpemberton says:

    Great points as usual!

    I like seven points. They seem more biblical. That's why I hate to add one. Something I learned in the Marines from a new platoon Sergeant was to go in and immediately check the discipline of the platoon. So he came off hard at first, but he told me that it's easier to back off from that than it was to come in too light and try to work up to a stronger position of discipline. The way I have translated this into the civilian world is to immediately check and assert disciplinary policies. (For a church, this would be for the church staff – not necessarily for the whole congregation.) People learn intuitively which rules you are serious about and which ones you aren't. If you come off light in the beginning, you can expect your new team to take advantage of the rules until they know which ones you're serious about. If you come in on the strong side, they will assume self-discipline on all of them for a while. This gives you the opportunity to back off the ones that are less important for the function of your team. You don't want to be mean or grumpy about it, just firm and fair.

    • ronedmondson says:

      I like this a lot. And, having grown up and spent most of my life in a military town, I love military training. 

  • XNXX says:

    Wow, awesome weblog structure! How long have you been running a blog for? you make blogging look easy. The entire glance of your site is fantastic, let alone the content material!

  • Eric

    I like your strategy. I appreciate you taking the time to share it with us. I also hope that you keep sharing about your time of transition and what you are learning from it.

  • Kmac4him

    I will be watching these posts with a learning heart… I am constantly the “new person”! My husband is a traveling construction superintendent. His company puts him up in the state where the job is for as long as needed until it is finished. The only thing stable in my life is my online church ministry (wherever I go, it goes) and a home in the MTNS that we come home to every now and then. The most hardest transition for me every time we move (which is usually every 8mths to a year) is that I have not changed, I am still a seasoned servant who has been trained and equipped by God and have served in many types of ministries. But, people don’t trust you, yes Christians… they don’t trust you when you come into a new church. You are stepping into their family room as a stranger. I have found you can’t come in dragging the past with you, telling them everything that you “used” to do; you have to find a place to fit in the God Purposes that are in play in their living room. Every time we move, we have to find a new church, and every time they require you to go through their “new members class” 101, 201… etc before you can serve. I used to resent it so much… not another “new members class”… but I realized even though I may be more trained and experienced more ministry then all of them combined, I need to come into the situation like Jesus did with a heart that is “abased”, willing to lay down my rights and step into the Kingdom Purposes that are already in play!

  • Great way to map out a new start. Intentionality is so important.

    Blessings in your ministry,


  • I love your insight and thanks so much for sharing. Having a love for the church, the people, I think it is always a wise move to show appreciation which is exactly what you are dong by connecting with many levels of operations like the A/V staff. Appreciation is so underrated yet a huge builder of motivation. Several followers leave organizations because they do not feel appreciated. Some people like to hear it, some like to see it, and some like to have a pat on the back, but all followers need it. Blessings in your new assignment.

  • I am going to be transitioning into pastoral ministry, soon. I have already been working up an initial set of strategies and tactics. I was wondering about your initial vision. How do you set a vision without treating the church as though it is just another platform for your ministry, especially without having met the people or really learned the church culture there?

    Also, I loved the idea of identifying quick wins. Can you expand on that some more?

    • ronedmondson says:

      I'm taking the slow approach. I spent a lot of time researching and asking about the church's history. I've asked a lot of questions. You can view my second message where I addressed the church's values and history. I'm really trying to avoid sacred cows.I'm also moving slow. I have 7 initiatives to move the church forward (outlined in my 3rd message) and in each of them I'm asking the team set up to study them for some “quick win” suggestions. I'll post more as we continue to move forward.

  • Leslie says:

    What is your theory on assimilation?
    Specifically how should new guests be plugged in?

    Ie where is the hand off between Guest Services/Welcoming Ministries to Adult Ministries?

    In a large church how can you measure success in that? Is it even possible?

    I work in adult ministries- my boss is a micromanager. I study and research and "interview" other pastors of other churches and get my proposal for how we can best connect people and every single time- my boss turns it down and tries to guide me in another direction.

    It almost feels like my boss has in her mind what she wants me to do, but is trying to get me to
    Come up with HER idea by redirecting me..with 'new assignments' …it's pretty frustrating!

    Thanks for your blog! I'm a faithful reader!
    Ps GO CATS!!

    • ronedmondson says:

      I absolutely think there should be a connection. I'm thinking from the time a person thinks “church” for the first time and drives on our parking lot, until the person reaches glory…I think it's all part of discipleship.I'd love to have some of your ideas. We are looking now.