The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Top 10 list for first-year pastors

1. Before starting your call, read at least 10 years' worth of minutes from council and congregational meetings. Look for things they promised themselves and never finished. Look for conflict and how they resolved it. If you are a glutton for punishment, do the same for the committees.

2. Read and become familiar with the congregation's constitution. If it needs updating, that is a great way to introduce your servant style to the congregation. For example: "I will guide you but it is your constitution." But you can also speak with authority when needed. No decision is made outside of the process set forth in the constitution.

3. Get a list of the 20 to 30 oldest members and visit them. Have them tell their faith stories and the congregation's as well. Oh, how you will learn.

4. Look at a year's worth of bulletins. What is the congregational "hymnbook"? This is a great way to gauge their piety.

5. Preach your faith story. Share stories about yourself and also about people who informed you as a person of faith. The most important story is how you came to the ministry. When you have dried this up, preach on the catechism and your favorite Bible stories.

6. Attend committee meetings once or twice. Find out which ones need your presence and which do not. Let the healthy ones meet and do their work without you. Tell them that if they need you they should just ask. For the struggling committees, make the idea of functioning without you a goal. It's a great way to set the timbre of your ministry. It's a healthy way of saying, "I am here to serve you, not tell you what to do. I will train leaders, teach the faith and guide you along the way."

7. Make sure your office is set up in an inviting way. When the door is open (all the time unless needed) it should feel like a place people would like to come to sit and talk with the pastor. Let them know that you encourage and value people coming in and talking, especially for no particular reason.

8. Take time for vacation and continuing education. Get members used to you taking care of yourself. When you come back from a continuing education event, make sure you share some insights in your sermons, and name drop while you teach.

9. Be yourself.

10. Do nothing drastic for the first year. I know others will tell you different, but just your presence is change enough. The only major projects that the congregation should take on are those things that you discovered in those meeting minutes. Pick two to three items they pledged to do and encourage them to fulfill these promises. This is a great line: "I am not going to suggest any changes here until you fulfill these promises you made to yourselves." 


Yvonne Kroll

Yvonne Kroll

Posted at 12:50 pm (U.S. Eastern) 10/8/2013

What sound and thoughtful advice!  This list may also work for those of us taking on new positions in lay jobs, non-profit positions, and the corporate world.  It can also be a way to think back of our own personal faith story and how we have grown through the years in our walk with God.  It can inspire us to share that story with those who mean the most to us. Thank you for sharing with all of us!

Julian Grev

Julian Grev

Posted at 9:42 pm (U.S. Eastern) 10/8/2013

Douglas Bell

Douglas Bell

Posted at 11:05 pm (U.S. Eastern) 10/8/2013

Lots of great advice for anyone in any leadership position.

Judith Anderson

Judith Anderson

Posted at 6:31 pm (U.S. Eastern) 10/11/2013

This advice would be good reading for 'older

 pastors.  My pastor likes to be the center of the universe.

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