Pastor's Report Staff  

(Reprinted from the May 1, 1978, Pastor's Report)

Among the many aspects of our jobs as ministers, perhaps one of the most dramatic is the so-called "ministerial transfer." While the ministry in all churches experience this phenomenon, perhaps we have gone through a bit more than most. Since we are a part of a "mobile ministry," "pilgrims in the earth," and since our moves do have such an impact on churches and individual brethren (and each other!), we ought to become professional in this phase of our jobs as well.

All of us on the Certificate of the Ministry Program closely identify with this approaching reality. We want to share our concern and thinking with all of the ministry via this article giving some pointers, guidelines, and methods we think will help in making any ministerial move smooth, administratively efficient, and as devoid of excessive emotional strain as possible.

A line we have used in churches and Spokesman's Clubs especially, is that "A man is known by his entrances and his exits." In the case of a transfer, one is "exiting" and another "entering." We believe that the most important principle in "passing the baton" between two pastors is that of doing to others as you would want done to you. A transfer is a mutual responsibility. Both pastors have a heavy responsibility to each other as well as to the people they serve.

What follows is a list of general guidelines we feel will help in the process of the "changing of the guard" in God's Church.

   (1) One of the most frequent gripes voiced by new pastors is, "The files were a shambles!" If a new man, with problems enough to cope with, has the added burden of figuring out Who's Who?, Who's Where?, Who's Alive or Dead? in the local church, he's off to a limping start. Church files stating addresses, phone numbers, organization charts, and perhaps some well-marked maps, ought to be left behind in good order. He might even appreciate a list of those he can expect to be perpetually after him for his attention — the perpetual "time-wasters."

   (2) Leave behind an up-to-date listing of PMs and new contacts that the new man can run with.

   (3) The new pastor might appreciate a file on local recreational, educational, and various professional services (from especially competent or helpful mechanics to real estate agents to MDs) available in the area.

   (4) It would be nice if there were no marital, family, or doctrinal problems left in the wake of the departing pastor, but we know that's impossible. However, some effort ought to be made to finalize long-term counselings and to leave a "brief" on the (hopefully) few major problems that will need attention immediately.

   (5) Any out-of-date "garbage files," problem letters, or prejudiced information on any members ought to be taken away or destroyed by the outgoing man.

   (6) The new pastor ought to be adequately introduced to the lay leadership of the Church and to meet with them soon after the "other guy" departs to learn firsthand how things have been organized and operated in the local church. It might be good to leave some of the chores of the transition period on the shoulders of the Local Church Elders and deacons, giving them a chance to be used in passing on to the new man some of the vital information.

   (7) The exiting pastor ought to leave, preferably in writing, a list of suggestions, directions, future ideas for growth for the new man to ponder and use for his initial planning in his new responsibility.

   (8) The two pastors ought to spend at least 3-5 days together sharing ideas and engineering the changeover. And on at least one occasion they ought to be seen together by the congregation on the Sabbath. Some prefer to take over or leave cold-turkey; some want to introduce the new man for his first sermon in the area. Try to work out what is best together.

   (9) The congregation needs to be made aware that: a. there is a need for transferring b. that there will be changes on "how" and "what" things are done (we hope gradually) and c. that there is a mutual respect between the two pastors. This is supported by the care on both parts not to run the other down or criticize the other's policies or preferences publicly or privately.

   (10) Although he will undoubtedly want to keep up contacts in the area, the exiting minister ought to ''burn his bridges behind him" in a sense, so as to not have people going around the new pastor's back.

   (11) The new pastor can make points with his congregation if he makes sure that they know that he wants to be there. He should praise the area, study some of the history of the locale as well as local church history. The attitude of Ruth is a good example, "Your people shall be my people." We have to earn the respect of a new congregation, so avoid any putdowns and innuendos. Accepting them will help them accept you.

   (12) If the members would wear name tags for the first few weeks it would help everyone in getting acquainted.

   (13) The departing man might prepare a brief listing of the strengths talents, jobs and hobbies of the local membership (perhaps a kind of "Vita-Sheet") or comments on the member address cards.

   (14) Communicate closely with the outgoing pastor as to what he has covered recently in sermons, the status of church programs, and the "State of the Church" in general.

   (15) Plan the departing and incoming sermons carefully. Build up the new man coming in, support the "weary veteran" going out. In addition to an icebreaker, the early part of a new pastorate is an ideal time to expound your concept of the ministry, your support of church doctrine and HQ, and what you expect of the congregation. The departing pastor has a better opportunity in his sermons to explain why transfers, why changes, differences in administrations and the concept of building on what each other has done.

The time of transfer can be a difficult one. Feelings of competition, inferiority, or insecurity can easily surface. Ideally, these transition periods ought to be times of advancement and growth for everyone involved. The Church is God's and we are all like runners in a relay race. We usually have only a short space (of time in this case) to try to match each other's pace and "pass the baton" without dropping it or stumbling. It's not a case of "passing the buck," but passing a sacred responsibility. Both share equally in the task. It is all too easy for the runner at the end of his lap to fizzle out and for the new man to spurt off too quickly. There is no other way to slice it except to admit that a transfer is a lot of work for everyone involved, but a harmonious, coordinated effort "sweetens" this necessary activity for everyone!

1977-78 Sabbatical Ministers

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Pastor General's ReportMay 14, 1979Vol 3 No. 17