In a few short weeks, Methodist ministers across the Annual Conference will be moving to new appointments. I recently received from the Lewis Center for Christian Leadership an article entitled “50 Ways to Welcome your New Pastor or Associate Pastor.” The article is easy to find on line with practical ways to welcome and say goodbye. Among the list are: Open your heart and decide that you are going to love your new pastor; begin praying for the new pastor and family; send cards of welcome to the new pastor and family; show love, regard, even grief for your departing pastor; and introduce yourself to the new pastor repeatedly!
The one that stands out to me is #15. “Do not invite the former pastor to return for weddings, funerals, or baptisms. This allows your former pastor to engage fully with his or her new congregation, and it establishes your new pastor as everyone’s pastor from the beginning.” I see this one ignored by too many pastors and congregations. I’ve seen the difficulty, hurt feelings, and disappointments on the part of both pastors and congregations way too many times when the simple directive to move- physically and emotionally doesn’t reallytranspire. I understand that relationships, meaningful relationships were established through tears, fears, joys and laughter. We gravitate to the known away from the unknown, particularly when there is a trauma or significant event talking place, we want the familiar that knows us and has been there for us in the past.
Yet, how is the unknown ever really known unless encountered in a meaningful and significant way? What might we miss from not having engaged a new person in our lives? What pastoral gift might have been left unopened because we defaulted to what we knew? What new insight, comfort or perspective missed because we didn’t move emotionally?
We understand that Methodists ministers move; they have for over 200 years. The reason has in large part always been for the benefit of the local church to have exposure to a variety of gifts for the overall spiritual health of the church. Why would we deprive ourselves of the gift offered to us by pastors willing to go were sent? Why would pastors deprive their new charges of their gifts by spending time at a former charge?
If the first thing on the list were genuinely engaged, “Open your heart and decide you are going to love your new pastor (church)”, then #15 would automatically be addressed as well.
More than just a thought….