Fifteen Ways to Welcome a New Pastor
It is annual conference season across The United Methodist Church, and many congregations will be welcoming new pastors appointed by the bishop and cabinet within the succeeding weeks. Here are some suggestions for the preparation and welcoming process for those involved in the church's worship and music areas. Many of these may be handled by other groups in the church, but the church's musicians can certainly lend their help.
Before the Move
1. Telephone the New Pastor
Introduce yourself — who you are, what you do, how you support or guide the congregation's worship and music. If your church has a website, let the pastor know and provide the URL. If the church has a pattern for staff e-mail addresses, provide it. Ask if the new pastor yet knows when the moving date and first Sunday will be. Is there anything you can begin to do to make those two dates come and go smoothly? Offer to answer any questions he or she may have. Do not talk about problems of the past, and do not overwhelm the new pastor with details.
2. Provide Information to Choir Members
This should of course include names of the pastor and family and the age of any children. Where did the pastor receive theological training? What have been his or her past appointments? Is there anything specifically related to worship or music that you have learned from talking with the pastor or from the district superintendent that you can share?
3. Have a Meeting with Choir Directors and Accompanists
This is an ideal time to evaluate the church's music ministry. Does the schedule for rehearsals, worship, concerts, and special services need to be altered? What do you need to change or do differently? What does the new pastor need to know?
4. Pick Up, Straighten Up, Clean Up the Choir Room, and File Music
Most of us don't do this weekly. Make a good first impression.
5. Offer to Help with Cleaning and Fixing Up the Parsonage
Contact the parsonage committee or Staff Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) and ask if members of the choir can assist with cleaning and repairs, mowing the lawn, weeding the flowerbeds, painting, and the like.
6. Interim Worship Sunday
The week between old and new pastors is busy and pressured. Cooperate with SPRC, your worship committee, and the new pastor to make plans for the first Sunday's service. Offer to assist where you are able: planning the service, liturgy, prayers, responses, picking hymns. Does the new pastor want to lead worship that Sunday? Preach? Will there be Holy Communion, and if so, who will preside? Perhaps you can prepare a mostly music service, or a Great Day of Singing service. Suggest this Sunday's service be led by laity and musicians.
During the Move
7. Help With the Move
Organize choir members to help. Is it a U-Haul move? Can someone go to the pastor's old home to help with packing and loading? Bring help to unload the truck. Organize a schedule for choir members to bring in meals for the first few days.
8. Don't Forget the Kids
If there are young children or youth, arrange for them to meet others of similar age in the church and get acquainted. In the pressure of moving day, children can feel in the way, abandoned, bored, even scared. Help them to feel at home.
After the Move
9. Welcome the Pastor and Family
Include an order for welcoming or receiving the pastor in the first worship service. Plan a congregational after-church dinner, or a Sunday evening hymn sing and ice cream social.
10. Invite the New Pastor/Spouse/Family to the End of the Choir Rehearsal
Plan for a shorter rehearsal time this evening. Introduce the family and the choir. Give the pastor a chance to say something to the choir. Leave a short time for fellowship. Provide edibles.
11. Request a Time for the Pastor to Meet the Music Staff
This can be a time to get to know each other and for the pastor to put names and faces together. Ask the pastor ahead of time what he or she would like to do at this meeting, if anything. Prior to the meeting provide the pastor with a list of music staff and contact information.
12. Provide a List of All Choirs and Ensembles and a Directory of Members' Names and Contact Information
In many churches, choir members are also the church leaders.
13. Provide a Folder of Worship Bulletins and Church Newsletters
showing highlights and special events in the last few years and major Sundays of the past year (Advent, Christmas Eve, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost, choir programs).
14. Provide the New Pastor with a NEW United Methodist Hymnal, The Faith We Sing, Worship & Song, Book of Worship, Book of Discipline, and Desk or Appointment Calendar.
These might even be presented as part of a welcoming liturgy during the first worship service.
15. Provide Worship Service Information
As music director or leader, you are in a position to make the pastor's transition shorter and easier than it might be. Find a way to provide information and details on the worship service(s), either in personal conversation or in a folder of printed information, but it should be done within a few days of the move. This should include:
- who prepares bulletins and when
- how is information gathered
- Sunday morning schedule of worship and classes
- details of radio or television
- tour of the sanctuary
- sound system
- musical instruments
- choir placement
- sacraments: frequency, logistics, liturgies, music, laity involvement
- ushers and greeters
- children's sermons
- are there preparation rituals? prayer with the choir?
Above all, recognize that the new pastor is not the previous pastor. Understand that the new pastor has different interests, priorities, customs, training, and expectations. The new pastor will lead differently, and perhaps in new directions. Be assured there will be changes. Prepare your choir members for that possibility and inevitability. You and the choir can be supportive and can ease the transitions. The pastor is given by The Book of Discipline and United Methodist tradition the responsibility for overseeing the worship life of the congregation. Remember that that responsibility does not lie with the musicians in the church. Be open to possibilities of new growth and excellence in worship and music that God may have in mind for you and your congregation.
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