The big change marker to our church identity is the itinerant system where we move our pastors around from parish church to parish. The big plus is always that our churches identities are based on the make up of the congregation, not the personality of the pastor. But, the pastor does have a huge affect on the church and the staff & program ministries.
So we thought we’d put together a few thoughts on how to navigate those clergy transitions that are happening in the UMC this time of the year.
1. Stop the comparisons!! Maybe you hated your last pastor and can’t wait for this one, maybe you LOOOOVED the last pastor and are still grieving their new appointment away from you. The worst thing you can do in any case is to put together a set of comparisons from the old to the new. It is hugely unfair to the person and it is probably just going to upset you all along the way. This new person is a whole new person & needs to be treated with openness so that everyone can discover their gifts and talents, not their gifts compared to the prior pastor. It may take some open disclosure to the new clergy member to say, “I really loved them & enjoyed working with them, but I am looking forward to working with you and seeing what ministry we can get done together.”
2. Get a Grip!! They should have been through this a time or two so they know that their is some grief a congregation goes through with this change and that the staff encounters both a fear and excitement. Key is to get a grip on the emotions and not let them rule you. Big trick is to not let others emotions rule you as well. Don’t give your emotional being to a parishioner or other staff person who has ranting or gossiping about some element of the change. When you do that only harm to a possible relationship can be done, which you will probably need mending later on.
3. Meet Personally and Professionally: There is a need to start a relationship with this new clergy member. As the/one of the youthworkers for the church they might even have youth kids who they want to plug into the group. Meet them professionally as staff person who works on behalf and for the church. Schedule a meeting lunch to go over the vision of the ministry, where it has been, and where you all hope to go. Schedule another meeting later down the road where you can give them time to observe the church and its ministries and give feedback as to how you could be doing things better. They will appreciate the invite to contribute. Personally treat them as a parent, if they are. Give them the time you would give to a new parent and go through what is needed for getting their teenager involved in the youth ministry. Since their teenagers come to the youth community under different circumstances than most, have something that says “hello” and greets them very well. Do something personally to get to know the new clergy, maybe dinner with families or a golf outing (or something social in nature.
NOTE: I consider some of the employment of much like an HR system found in the college coaching field. Many times you will hear about a new athletic director having a coach that ‘wasn’t their hire’ and inferring that they would want to change whenever they get a chance. You could find yourself in one of these scenarios and there isn’t much you can do about it, it just stinks. However, if you are able to keep these three tips in mind you will conduct yourself with such class & integrity that if a fit never emerges then your leaving would be something you can hold your head up high about and not feel like a victim of a system.