Saying Hello to a New Pastor

An important period in the life of any congregation is the period of time between “goodbye” and “hello.”  The in-between time, the interim time, is a critical time in the life of any congregation.  Some have compared the interim to a wilderness experience.

        For the past quarter century, I have helped congregations pay attention to these in-between times.  About ten years ago I developed a program I call, “A Bridge to the Interim.” Typically, the bridge I have provided comes at the front end of the pastoral transition.  Anxieties often run high immediately following the departure of a pastor.  It is then I seek to come into the congregation and provide the bridge to the interim.

        A few weeks ago, I received an email from Paul Marquess, one of the leaders at Melbourne Heights Baptist Church, Louisville.  Paul said, “You helped us with a bridge to the interim, do you think you could come back and help us with a bridge from the interim?”  Melbourne Heights had gone through a lengthy interim—more than two years—and now they have called Adam Schell to be their pastor.  They want to pay attention to the transition from the interim period to welcoming a new pastor. 

        So, for the past three weeks, I have helped Melbourne Heights think about saying hello to their new pastor. I have suggested that three themes or tasks seem to be present when a minister becomes pastor of a new congregation. These are:
  • To understand and be understood
  • To accept and be accepted
  • To affirm and be affirmed

We have considered these tasks in sermons and we have had conversations during Wednesday prayer service.  I have facilitated conversations around these three tasks of saying hello to a new pastor.  We have thought about the fact that the congregation has its stories, its traditions, its rich history.  Adam enters into their story with his own stories, his own traditions, his own ways of doing things.

        This is a time of celebration and heightened anticipation as this congregation welcomes their new pastor. It has been a joy to walk with this congregation during this important time.  My prayer for Melbourne Heights is: Through inspiration, perspiration, concentration, and by the power and grace of God, may your congregation and pastor become “one in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4: 1-7)

If you wish to see the three-page document, “Saying Hello to a New Pastor,” click here.