A few weeks back I received an email from our Bishop stating that our District Superintendents will be talking to the clergy who the Bishop anticipates moving to new church appointments. The Bishop, and Cabinet, will also be calling our staff parish relations committee chairs to discuss subsequent moves. The changes were then announced on the following Sunday. Note: If these titles and processes sound strange to you then you probably are not part of the United Methodist Church. We call it our itinerant system. The itinerant system has some real beauty and benefit to congregations, as well as a strong history. It does, however, have a few drawbacks. In the end, it is what it is and we at in the UMC get used to welcoming the ministry of new pastors each 5+/- years into the church.
With the itinerant system we in the UMC have become pretty good at dealing with pastor change. And we have screwed up a bunch as well. So why not share a few ideas on making pastor change work well.
The new pastor is not the old pastor. Give the incoming pastor some grace as they move into the leadership of the church. Do not assume that they are or are not going to be a something or do something. When a pastor moves they often adapt and recreate portions of themselves. Extend grace in holding back comparisons of the pastors past & present.
Be the person who takes the initiative to reach out to the new pastor. Do not sit in your office and expect them to come find you in all circumstances. Give them a phone call to introduce yourself. Reach out in social media (if they do that). Schedule a time to meet the new pastor in a one on one opportunity. From there you can become a person whom the pastor can lean on to help in their transition. They appreciate those people who help make the transition easier.
Fanboy (Fangirl) the Fam
In most circumstances a new pastor brings with them a new family to the life of the church. Unlike new families who come to church they have a whole other set of unique circumstances that brings them to church. Give as much time to getting to know their family and being a hospitable member than you would to the pastor. Trust me, they will love you for loving on their family.
Discuss Visions & Values
Once the new pastor has started to get settled in have some initial and then in depth conversations about their vision and values for the youth ministry. In the same light, share your vision and values for the youth ministry. Note the things that you are in agreement with and those things that you differ. Make some plans to be collaborative in ministry.
Schedule Catch Up Dates
Put on your calendar for those first few weeks, months of transition to meet regularly with the new pastor. They want to be ‘in the know’ about the happenings at the church. Don’t worry so much about what is too trivial to share. You are opening up the lines of dialogue and establishing a working relationship that strength is in communication. Let them discern what actually was trivial.
Put Together a Youth Photobook
Want to get the new pastor to know your youth? Put together a photo book of the youth they are going to see a lot of and those who less active. It is a great tool to match faces to names, and helping the pastor establish some relationship cred with the teens only produces good things. (If you haven’t done this with your current pastor and they could use help knowing the youth in the church, go ahead and do this as well. Also a good idea if you are getting a new youth leader.)
If you are a paid staff person, but you work outside the church on a regular basis (like me), then make arrangements to be around the church when the new pastor moves in. Be available to help with the copy machine, give a tour of the church, directions to the hospital, or tell them what the best lunch spots. Helping with those little things gets them up to speed quickly and gets you all back into the normal stream of ministry faster.
Don’t Overwhelm Them Trying to be Impressive Cool
When you get together do not occupy those initial times talking about yourself. They will ask, they always do, but you need not share with them all the cool things you have done as a youth worker. Don’t go on and on about how awesome you are. After a short time working together they will come to see the complete and total awesomeness that you are.
If you are able to help out in some of these ways it helps build a lot of social clout with the new pastor. Doing a few of these will also give quite a few moments of time to get to know each other & glimpse into the future ministry of the church.