There are 25 citations in the book, some of them from the same source. Some of these sources are not strictly, if at all, academic sources. Rather, they may be an illustration or explanation of some point of content in the book. But, it is not intended to be an academic research on the topic of transitioning into a new pastorate. Rather, these are the reflections garnered over a lifetime of ministry from Scott Daniels and other pastors that he consulted when constructing this book.
It is important to start well. The first 100 days of ministry are vitally important for setting expectations and trajectory. When considering a new pastorate, Daniels suggests we should be aware of three areas. First, we must consider why we really want to take a position. Is this a legitimate call from God or are there other mitigating factors? Second, reflect and pray. Don’t be hasty in making the decision. Finally, “know thyself.” In other words, would this be a good fit for your personality, gifts, and strengths? Are you an activator, sustainer, maximizer, or rebuilder. Knowing this can help you discern if it is a good fit for both you and the church.
“Knowing what you don’t know” can also save your ministry. Coming into a new pastorate calls for you to become a student of the culture. Learn the history of the church. What is the heartbeat of the community? Also, “assess the present.” What are the expectations of the church now and what is its strengths and weaknesses? Understanding issues, such as finances, are extremely important in determining the health of the church. Finally, “learn about the community.” Understanding the context is important for any ministry. Not only does it help you understand your congregation but it also gives you insight into potential ways to reach the community at large.
Change is always hard. That is true for pastor’s families. Daniels points out that it is important to help the whole family transition. One helpful possibility is taking time between pastorates to grieve what is being lost and dreaming about what is possible in the new church. This allows the family to transition together and to process the emotions that go with such transition. It is also good to talk about taking the position with your family. It should be a family decision. If you do go to a new church, help your family make connections to others and to the community. It’s also vitally important to be present with your family during this time.
“Establish clear expectations.” This not only provides accountability but it also helps everyone to be on the same page. This pertains to the financial package, expectations about the position, and anything else that might pertain to life together. Daniels suggests writing a covenant rather than a job description because this is a commitment to one another, not simply a pastor that is “hired.”
“Preach well.” This is the opportunity to shape the congregation. And, it is also a way that the congregation assesses the pastor. Fair or not, congregations will question a pastor’s ability in other areas if preaching and teaching are not done well. It is also important to make changes in this area of worship very slowly. In fact, it’s best to not make any changes to the worship schedule until sufficient time has passed.
“Secure some early wins.” This helps establish leadership early. Focus on pastoral care and relationships. As the old adage goes, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Connecting with the congregation is essential, especially early, in the ministry. That might mean hospital visits, opening your home to others, and getting involved in the daily lives of parishioners and their families.
“Choose your battles carefully.” Not every battle is worth being crucified over. Pick the battles that really matter. And, introduce change, especially big change, slowly and delicately. Trying to introduce too much change too quickly can be perceived as an attack on the people or the church itself. Helpful change happens with diligent attention and a commitment to the long view. Social capital becomes extremely important in these transitions.
“Transition accelerators.” Several things can help a leader transition faster and gain social capital simultaneously: get organized, establish achievable goals, be teachable, begin building a team, and negotiate conflict. How you handle each of these elements can really create and sustain momentum.
“Take care of yourself.” Leaders pointed out four ways to care for yourself: find a mentor, disciplined soul and body care, fight in your own armor, and keep perspective. Personally, I can attest to the power of a mentor. They help us see the big picture and keep us accountable. Exercise of body and spirit is essential for personal care. Neglect in either realm can lead to a ministry cut short. Fighting in your own armor means that you play to your strengths and gifts. Don’t try to be somebody else as a pastor. Finally, keeping perspective is really about looking at your ministry in the great scope of the world. Your problems and issues may be quite small and minor compared to the majority of Christians in the world. Realizing how good you have it may help you maintain balance.
Most importantly, leadership is intimately connected with our connection to the Father, through the Son, empowered by the Holy Spirit. One of the most compelling things to follow is a person on fire for God. That is really what it means to be called.
This was a great book. I had Dr. Daniels as a professor in my Master’s program and came to really appreciate and respect him as a pastor. This book was not disappointing. There are very practical applications that any pastor could employ. Even after having transitioned to my third church recently, this book helped me think through some of the issues that I really need to consider. This is a great read for young ministers, but it can also help those that have been doing ministry for a while, too.