Five Practices for a Pastor of a New Congregation

Next week, the church I've been serving as Interim Pastor will vote on a new Senior Pastor. I'm very excited for them and him, and in reflecting on the three transitions I've made in years past, there are five practical things I'd encourage the new pastor to practice.

First, be vulnerable. People don't trust pastors with their lives who don't trust the people with their lives. And trust is the foundation for any healthy pastorate. This is not to say that the pastor should consider the congregation as part of his group therapy. But it is to say that a polished, professional person who seemingly never struggles with just about anything is not someone people will long trust with their struggles. Pastor, be vulnerable.

Second, be authentic. By this I mean be genuine in your pursuit of the truth. There's a fine line between vulnerability and authenticity, but a line nonetheless. Vulnerability permits authenticity. Even though doctrinal truth is revealed to the church in Scripture, there will be points of disagreement throughout, and you will be able to pursue the truth together (that is, be authentic) if you trust each other. This will also be the case for decisions related to methods and resources, and I've found it to be a great challenge in southern churches (so much so, I dedicated a chapter to it here). Nonetheless, it's crucial. Pastor, be authentic.

Third, be responsible. By God's grace, do what you say you will do, and be clear about what others in the church you lead need to do. Responsibility firms up trust and cultivates authenticity. Pastor, be responsible.

Fourth, encourage accountability. It's not enough to communicate and model responsibility. You have to be willing to answer to someone (though always ultimately to the Lord), and many will often have to answer to you. The most selfless thing you can do is have the courage to confront someone about their lack of responsibility, and the most humble thing you can do is submit to someone else's feedback on your deficiencies. The more you do these two things in the early days, the less you'll have to do them in the future. Pastor, encourage accountability.

Finally, fulfill the mission. There is no such thing as a healthy church that isn't fulfilling its mission of making disciples of all nations. With the foundation of these previous four practices, you can lead the church to shift the budget, restructure personnel, and do all kinds of other things that you'll need to do in order to fulfill your mission.

Pastoral leadership is a complicated, challenging and rewarding endeavor. As you persist in the spiritual disciplines and follow the Spirit's lead, I believe these five practices will serve you and the congregation well in your mission of making disciples.