Part I: The Pastor’s Preparation
It’s appointment season in the United Methodist Church–you know, that time of year when every pastor who’s been in place more than three years starts to get jumpy every time the phone rings and church leaders start wondering whether or not their pastor will get the call and, if so, trying to figure out the next step. Well, if this is happening or about to happen to you in the next several weeks, don’t panic. The first connection between a new pastor and the congregation in the United Methodist system is the new pastor introduction and today’s post will give you some tips on how to get ready.
If you’re the pastor who is showing up for the introduction, there are a few key things you can do that will not only set the church’s Staff-Parish Relations Committee’s mind at ease but also help them to get a good picture of your gifts and abilities:
1. Be honest about who you are. Unlike systems where pastors interview for positions (which really are more like your regular job interview), United Methodist clergy pretty much already have the gig by the time they show up at the church with the district superintendent. While you want to be on your best interview behavior, the difference here is that you are really responsible for helping the church determine whether or not you are a good match. The way you do that is by being very clear about your gifts, your theological bent, your style of leadership, your skill set, and anything else you have discerned about the real you. Granted, none of us serves the church that is a match in every area of our giftedness, but being honest up front about your strengths and challenges will help the SPR committee know what they will be getting if you become their pastor.
2. Give them a notebook of information. SPR members are anxious about this process and rightly so. The church is looking to them to make a good decision about the new pastor (even if it isn’t always their decision). The new pastor can help the introduction by providing them with a notebook that goes deeper about you than can be gleaned in a couple of hours of conversation. Here are some things to include:
- Audio of at least one of your sermons. In the UMC, no one gets to hear the new pastor preach until he or she shows up on the first Sunday of their tenure, yet the number one concern people have about their clergy is whether or not he or she can preach. Providing a clean video or audio sample on a flash drive (or a website link if your previous church posted sermon audio) can go a long way toward alleviating some of that anxiety.
- A spiritual autobiography. A written biography that highlights the story of your call to ministry is a valuable resource for the committee. That will help them get to know your heart for ministry better than anything else. Limit it to no more than five typed (double-space) pages so that it’s easy to read in one sitting.
- Copies of any publications you have written (books, articles, etc.).
- An up to date resume’.
- DiSC or Meyer’s-Briggs information (helps those who know about these things interpret your personality and leadership style).
3. Be prepared to demonstrate your spiritual leadership. In my conference, pastors who are being introduced to new churches are asked to lead a devotional during the introduction. I think that’s a great way for a congregation to hear the pastor express himself or herself in a theological/biblical way. Even though this is a short opportunity, pastors should prepare for this like they prepare sermons. Choose a text about new beginnings and talk about how you feel God in the midst of the process.
4. Come with an outline of a transition plan. The key to a good transition is a good transition plan. Give the committee an outline of the kind of tasks you want to complete with them during the first few months of your tenure. Statistically, the first 90 days of the pastor’s tenure offer the most dangerous possible for failure or the most hopeful opportunity for creating momentum and moving the church toward the future. To help you begin planning for transition and involving laity in the process, check out my book Your Best Move: Effective Leadership Transition for the Local Church, which is now available as a workshop package that includes 5 copies of the book and video instruction on transition planning.
In Part II we will look at the SPRC’s role in the introduction, including the kinds of questions to ask and the best way to discern a good fit of pastor and church. The new pastor introduction can be an exciting time if you prepare for it!