The following is a guest post written by my friend Lance Mann who serves as the Senior Pastor at St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church in Crockett, TX.
The first Sunday in December 2013 was like every other first Sunday. We arose this morning, attended Sunday School, participated in the baptism of a new member, and had a wonderful time in worship. But in actuality, this really wasn’t like any other Sunday. It was one year ago this Sunday, where I was introduced as the new Senior Pastor of the St. Luke Baptist Church, Crockett, TX.
Our transition has had a few “bumps in the road” during our first year in Crockett, still we have no reservations that the Lord brought us to East Texas at the right season in our lives and ministry. I wanted to share what I believe has helped us experience a good transition to a new place despite the challenges.
Totally Trust The Clear Voice of God
The great thing about being married to a praying woman is that while the Lord is speaking to you about a move He is also speaking to your spouse. When I shared with her that I felt the Lord was leading us towards Crockett and St. Luke, to my surprise, Penny revealed to me that the Lord settled it in her spirit as well. That gave me a great sense of relief. I was worried about her feelings towards the possibility. However, this proves that when God speaks, He will make sure you are able to trust what He said through confirmation. And I trust that the same God who would send us to a place, is the same God who will keep us while He has us there.
Recommit Your Support For One Another
This is a very important component for having a smooth transition to a new place of ministry. I had to understand that while I was being sent to lead a local congregation, Penny wasn’t, and for the first time in her life, she was away from her sons and family. This can be difficult and a shock to the system for your wife. Our recommitment to support one another is what has helped us. Reality is, my wife has been super supportive in giving me time to get familiar with “the lay of the land” here, and it has made a difference to which I am grateful. I have supported her in any and every way possible to make her adjustment as smooth as possible. Both spouses must be sensitive to the concerns of each other to achieve a smoother transition.
Engulf Yourself in the Work of the Ministry
I preached at St. Luke on the first Sunday and I did not let a moment go to waste. I immediately had my secretary schedule meetings to quickly get me acclimated to the atmosphere and operations of the church. I set up meetings with all ministries over the first 2 weeks of my pastorate. I intended to introduce myself to them and understand their duties and activities presently going on. I initiated something I called “Quality Time With the Pastor & First Lady”. I had the members schedule meetings with my secretary for 30 minutes each every day over a 4-hour period. My reasoning for such a hectic early schedule was, if the transition was going to be a smooth one, I had to get a handle on the pulse of the church. My suggestion is, when you relocate your ministry, GET TO WORK! You have a lot of work to do, so you might as well get started.
Connect With Your “New Family” in Christian Fellowship
Along with the Quality Time, we took time to visit any member’s home who invited us over. We believe thirty minutes is not enough time to really know each other. We also discovered that most people are more comfortable in their own settings. Go and visit members at home. If they own small business in town, go visit. Spend time talking to them at the Wal-Mart or restaurants. Show them that you are genuinely concerned with their lives, not just wanting them to be concerned about yours. Real recognizes real! That’s a colloquialism but it rings true. If you are not honestly attempting to connect with your members on their terms as well as yours, they will be able to tell and the transition will be difficult.
Don’t Neglect Quality Time
Don’t gloss over the importance of spending time with your spouse. Alone. With all the ministry demands at church the home can suffer easily. Man’s first ministry is not the church or his calling, but his family. So I would make sure that at least once a week, Penny and I left town to not be Pastor and First Lady, but husband and wife. If you cannot afford to go to a fancy restaurant or the like, just take a long drive one Sunday after church, or Saturday morning and spend good quality time together. A movie and some fast food chicken will do wonders as long as it’s just the two of you alone.
Make Time To Go Back Home
This is probably the most difficult part of the transition. You are caught between your family wanting you back home and your new family wanting you with them as much as possible. The truth is, while the majority of your time will be spent in ministry with your new family, both sides need to understand that you need to go home sometimes. Penny and I went home to NJ a little over a month ago, and it was exactly what we needed. Just to see our kids, family, and friends. Although we weren’t in town long enough to see everybody, you need to get home to stay grounded and focused.
This really should have been number one on the list, but I have it last because it’s the most important. Nothing you do will ever be successful until you seek God’s direction in prayer first. And after you get to where God sends you, pray that God keeps you in your new place. And as you engage in ministry and fellowship, pray that God will give you a clear view on those around you, to show you who to trust and who to leave in the Lord’s hands. A consistent prayer life is the key to whether your transition is a great success or a complete failure. The same God you prayed to open the door must be the same God you pray to so you can stay in the room.