Friday, July 15, 2011

The pastor's honeymoon

Most pastors enjoy a honeymoon period when they begin serving a new church.  Occasionally, due to some unexpected event, this period may be rather short-lived, but usually the honeymoon time will last for a few months.  This is a great time to get acquainted with the congregation, especially the leadership, and the community.  It is a time to learn "how things work" in a new church.  This is a good time to learn the history of the church and any possible "land mines" that might exist.  At my very first business meeting as a new pastor I made a proposal that resulted in major pushback from those attending.  I learned later that night that I had inadvertantly stepped on a land mine by reminding the church of an unfortunate and painful event in their history.

Some people recommend that pastors not try to introduce any changes during the honeymoon period, but I don't necessarily agree.  While you want to avoid major changes until you know the church better, it is OK to make smaller changes, especially if they present themselves to you.  Small, incremental changes that have the congregation's approval can earn you trust in the eyes of the congregation and give it a sense that things are moving forward in a positive way.  This can actually enhance the honeymoon period.  I would suggest treading lightly in any change you might want to make, and be willing to back off if you encounter much resistance.

Use this time to build relationships.  Remember, as a bivocational minister you are probably the only person in the congregation who does not have a long-term relationship with everyone else in the congregation.  They are family, and you have to earn the right to be adopted into that family.  Being called as the pastor does not automatically mean that you are now part of the family.

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