This is part of a blog series that has 30 practical tips for the pastor looking to start or restart well. You can get the entire series as a Kindle book. The landing page will be updated with each new post.
Literally and metaphorically you have a lot to process.
You are walking into what used to be someone else’s office and it still has their system for organizing information, both physical and electronic. No matter what system they used it is nearly a guarantee that you wouldn’t have done it that way. This is one of those projects that are easy to put off for later in those first 30 days, but you should realize that now is probably the best time to tackle it.
You’ll hate it until you start to get used to it and then you’ll be slightly annoyed all the time. Put a system in place as quickly as possible. In the process you will get a handle on what you have.
Sadly most Rookie Pastors are walking into a situation of some sort of unresolved conflict. First jobs have a tendency to be imperfect and many of you are filling spots that were vacated by people who were asked to leave or left for something better. Which leaves you walking into something less than ideal.
As you ask lots of questions in general you need to be asking specific questions of the existing leaders that are already in place or have served in the past. Understanding as completely as possible all the previous details is imperative. The last thing you want to do is step on a landmine right out of the gate.
Here are few things you need to be clear on:
- The general timeline of the church, particularly when pastors served and for how long.
- Why people left. During the interview process call the person whose role you are filling even if that person was asked to leave. You need to get as many sides of the story as possible.
- Past issues of conflict. This is important to know not only so you do bring up past pain, but also to prepare for future conflict. For instance if the church has never had multiple services or changed worship styles you need to be prepared.
- How the church has been led. It probably hasn’t always been the way it is now, you need to understand the various structures they are familiar with.
- Complete financial history. Not only the questions of debt, but also if the church has ever had a capital campaign and how that turned out.
- The general highs and lows. No church that has been around for a while trends in a consistent way either positive or negatively.
Do this now because you are going to lose the ability to play naïve and you don’t want to tear into a fresh wound. There will come a time when you have to move forward but for now figure out where you stand.