(This is a message shared with First Lutheran Community Church, Port Orchard, WA as they prepare to welcome a new pastor in the next few months. This message may be helpful for congregations at any stage in a transition to a new pastor in the next few months.)
Did you feel the recent windstorm?
After a call committee has recommended a candidate to the congregation, a collective exhale blows through the congregation. “We have found our candidate!” The exhale is a sign of impending relaxation, creating a wind that blows through the congregation. Though the pastoral candidate has been identified and the intense anxiety has subsided in light of new information, the focus will change, as will the work of the congregation.
Sometimes, once the candidate is a known face and name, a congregation can easily lose its way. I offer a few focusing thoughts for your prayers and consideration.
1. Many congregations hold an underlying belief that the new pastor will solve all of the congregation’s current problems. Not only is this not true, but it’s also a lot of pressure to place on your new pastor. Your new pastor may welcome the challenge and offer particular gifts to address congregational challenges, but the coming of a new pastor does not mean that offerings will instantly grow, and that worship attendance will make an instant positive spike. Congregational growth (in numbers and faith maturity) is the result of a variety of factors, and rarely do any of the factors of congregational growth come together without building and nurturing quality relationships. It will take time and energy investment to build a quality relationship with your next pastor, and for your pastor to build quality relationships with you and the Port Orchard community.
2. Related to point #1, quality relationships do not appear on based on pure spontaneity. Quality relationships take intentionality—an investment of time, care, reflection and prayer. The Transition Team and Council are working together to take the good intentions of the congregation and put them toward a strategic effort to show hospitality as your new pastor integrates into congregational and community life. You may be called upon to share your gifts in welcoming your new pastor as the time approaches. Your prayers are always needed, and your gifts and labor may also be needed. This intentional effort is necessary. Too often, congregations take months of effort in calling a pastor and find their process and ministry in a shambles because they did not follow through with hospitality and thoughtful planning to build the foundation for a quality ministry relationship with your next pastor.
I have been blessed to walk with you through the preparation for your next pastor. I am hopeful that your ministry together will be blessed in the years to come. The exhale you experienced will lead into a movement of the Holy Spirit in your shared ministry and bless others in the name of Christ.