This is the week in most annual conferences in the United States known as “transition week.” Pastors who are moving to another assignment typically begin on July 1. There is a period of welcome and adjustment to a new environment, a new group of people, a new place to live and all the million things that go into a move.
Many pastors have spouses and children who transition with them, so it is not just the pastor who has many adjustments to make. Churches too have new things to get used to as they welcome new pastors. And there is often a bittersweet mixture of “good-byes” and “hellos” in the hearts of church members.
I ask that you do the following things listed below. (These suggestions are based on concerns that come up every year during transition week.)
- Pray for those in transition: pastors, families and churches
- Churches need to welcome their new pastors and new families with as much hospitality and love as they can muster.
- Pastors need to leave their churches when they leave their churches, and not continue to have pastoral ties with families in ways that interfere with the ministry of the new pastor. At least a one-year window of absence from all contact is requested, unless one is invited back by the new pastor for some reason.
- Parsonages need to be left clean and repaired.
- Pastors should attempt to learn about the new church before changing the worship style and things that people are used to doing. There is plenty of time to make changes, once people get to know the pastor and everyone understands each other.
- Contact the district superintendent if there are any concerns about salaries or promises made at the pastoral take-in. They are there to help.
The itinerant system of moving pastors is not perfect, but it has many advantages. The gifts of pastors vary greatly. With pastoral changes churches get to enjoy a variety of expressions of worship and styles of ministry that can bring health, strength and imagination to our congregations.
The most important thing is to keep the goal of preaching the gospel and making disciples as the driving passion of the church. God will lead both pastor and church into new, potentially exciting opportunities for spiritual growth and outreach.