I love working alongside my husband in pastoral ministry and enjoy becoming close to our church members. However, when it is time to leave one church to go to another, it is very hard to leave our dear friends. Do you have any suggestions to help make the transition from one church to another less stressful?
Moving can certainly be a challenge! Some things to remember as you think about moving: 1) You do not lose your friends just because you move. After all, you didn’t lose your parents when you left their home to set up your own home. 2) Your dear friends need to build a good relationship with the incoming pastor and his family. Make the new pastoral couple’s transition as easy as possible by letting go, moving on, and not returning very soon. 3) You will build great new relationships in your new pastorate, thus adding to your repertoire of friends.
But the question is, How can you transition more easily? Here are a few ideas.
- Acknowledge your sorrow about leaving your friends; don’t deny it. In fact, give yourself a week or even two
to mourn. It’s okay to cry when you feel like it, but don’t prolong the mourning time. For your own health, move on! By the way, don’t talk about the last district in the new one.
- Look forward with anticipation. Meet your new church family with joy. Develop an interested, curious spirit. Explore your new community and its unique opportunities.
- As soon as you are settled in your new home, invite the church family to a simple open house so that they feel like they know you. They too must transition to you as the new pastoral family. Provide each person with a name tag to help you. Do you have a large church? Invite different alphabetic groups on different weeks.
- Compete with your husband to learn the names of the members. See which of you can say an approaching person’s name first—but always help each other if a name is forgotten. If you can’t remember someone’s name, simply say, “I should know your name by now, but please help me.” Or “I know you, but I can’t think
of your name at this moment.”
- Create a page for each family, or use a spreadsheet or database to record information that you learn about your members and their families—husband, wife, and children’s names; birthdays; anniversaries; occupations or level in school; likes and dislikes; spiritual development; ministries serving in; talents; pets’ names; hobbies; and more. (Don’t treat it like a questionnaire—just learn it in natural conversation.)
- Your transition is a good time to draw in inactive, non-attending members. You don’t have to acknowledge that they aren’t attending when you invite them, visit them, email them, etc. Treat them well— they are special to God! Ask them to help you with something. Contact them often in some way.
As you find creative ways to get to know your new church or district family, you will discover you are having fun and feeling the satisfaction of accomplishment. One day you will realize, “This feels like home!” Have a great move!