Knowing What to Expect in a New Ministry Setting
- Most congregations tend to feel the minister is settled in when the moving van is gone and several casseroles have been delivered. More attention is usually paid to physical concerns than to emotional or spiritual issues.
- I have not found this to be too true with the people of Trinity. Many people seem quite open to talk about the emotional settling of my family, especially with Jude. Now, spiritual settling is another question… it doesn’t come up with many of our people – except our paid staff – from my conversations so far.
- Generally, the denominational structures expect the new ministries to “make things happen.”
- The history of a congregation includes more than the statistical and sociological information ordinarily given to a new or prospective minister. The congregation’s beginnings, heroes, “golden years,” conflicts, building programs, and sense of vision shape its present and its future.
- I think we’re all aware of the fact that we’re building on a legacy of ministry that has come before us. One thing I’ve always heard in congregational life – NEVER ever bemoan or criticize the past. You may not like the past, they may have seemed like awful times in your view, but that negativity kills future cooperation. (This isn’t the same as looking at how things happened and critically thinking about how to improve.)
- When the self-confidence of the minister or the congregation has eroded during the interim, two perils may develop: the congregation may be overly dependent on the minister as a rescuer, or the minister may feel the pressure for a “quick win” and fall back on programs that were successful elsewhere.
- First impressions are built on intuitive responses to two questions: Are you genuine? And, Do you care?
- Watch what surprises you during your startup. Surprises indicate a difference between what you expected and what happened. It a pattern of surprises emerges, step back and try to understand what’s happening.
- The “Honeymoon” is a time when the new minister is given extra leeway. This momentum is precious and should be patiently invested in priority ministries.
- Early in start-up, change only what is needed, wanted, and supported.
- It’s easier to follow effective ministers and build on the trust they’ve accumulated than to inherit the ill will assigned to ministers who have been disappointments.
- Expect to be tested.
- The end to the honeymoon is frightening and calls for clarifying and negotiating expectations
- Members with views like the new minister’s will tend to move into the centers of power in the church or institution
- The first conflict in a new ministry helps “set the rules” for future disagreements.
- When the new minister’s leadership style exerts more initiative than the congregation expects, overlaps in responsibility occur, and conflict is apt to surface. When the new minister’s leadership style takes less initiative than the congregation expects, vacuums in responsibility develop, and frustration results. The new minister is usually more able to sense the differences and adjust levels of leader initiative appropriately than the congregation at-large.
Developing a General Strategy for Establishing Yourself in Ministry Relationships in a New Post
- Begin with people and build relationships for ministry and personal encouragement.
- Help the congregation or institution define its basic purpose or dream.
- Build ministry on mainstream needs.
- Cultivate healthy organizational habits that will facilitate Christian growth.
* From: Church Administration Handbook, Bruce P. Powers, ed. (p.24-25)