I love leadership stuff, and I especially love helping young leaders and pastors. If it weren't for those who poured into me, I don't know where I'd be today! So with that in mind, a few weeks back a friend of mine emailed and asked for some advice for a Senior Pastor job interview. I thought his question was great, so for today's blog let me share some thoughts. Here's the original question:
1) Establish trust
This takes time. A LOT of time. I asked everyone in the church to give me 6 months before they left. Allow the church time to settle. Allow me time to figure out where I am and what I'm doing. If after 6 months you don't feel like the direction we are heading is for you, then graciously bow out ... but at least allow the church and me (as the new guy) time to build up some trust.
2) Listen to EVERYBODY
Even the people you don't want to listen to! Listen to them. Take notes. Identify who you can trust (elders, staff, etc.) and then bounce what you're hearing off of their relationships with people. Do a lot of listening and a lot less talking.
3) Evaluate Honestly
Once you know who is on the same page with you begin evaluating things for yourself. Coming into the church everything is going to be great. New guy, new relationships, new vision, new energy. When the "new" wears off, make sure you are listening to the right people to begin evaluating what need to be done.
4) Say "no" to almost everything
This is a big one. Say "no" ... a lot. You're the new guy, so everyone will want to come and tell you how the church should be run, what worked at their last church, what big ideas they have that you should know about, etc. Politely tell people "no" on almost everything so that you have time to develop your vision and a plausible strategy for the church. Once you have that in place, begin saying "yes" ONLY to the things that align with your vision and strategy.
5) Focus on people, not programs
Spend time with people. Spend time with small groups. Spend A LOT of time with your staff and leaders. Get to know them and let them get to know you. It is going to be your first impulse to want to run in and start setting up everything that you know will work (from your previous ministry), only to find out it might not work in your new ministry. Concentrate on building people and relationships before you focus on building the church as an organization
And here's a bonus for you:
Ask your leadership for time. At least 3 years before you are held up to the pressure of change and improvement. People want to see improvement and production immediately, but in ministry that ONLY comes through relationships, which must be built on trust. That takes time. Ask your leaders for time to make changes before they begin asking for results.
While I know this blog post won't be for everyone on the list, I hope it will help out some. And if you AREN'T a pastor, but you are a members of a church where a new pastor is coming in, read through this list and be ready to help them out. Being the new guy with a big vision in a place other people already call home is a tough place to be!