What to Do When the New Pastor Gets Off on the Wrong Foot

The new pastor looks out at the congregation. He’s acting confident and looks the part. The search committee did a good job from all appearances. The pastor speaks well and seems to know what he’s doing.

But wait…

Has someone removed the pulpit from the platform? And is that a rowboat the preacher is standing in? What is going on here? Am I in the right church? Have we entered the twilight zone?

I know of a pastor who did that on his first Sunday.

Is the new pastor not wearing a suit? Oh my, is he wearing jeans and sneakers? Whatever is our church coming to? What was the search committee thinking to bring in such a person to pastor our great church?

Sound familiar to anyone?

Was the new pastor right in introducing some changes immediately? I don’t know. It depends on a hundred things. Suffice it to say, most times the new pastor gets it right. However…

Sometimes new pastors goof up. They get off on the wrong foot. Sometimes they misspeak. Or they call an important person by the wrong name. New pastors have been known to introduce change abruptly when a more thoughtful thing would have been to prepare the congregation and transition slowly.

In every case, beginning pastors need one huge thing from the congregation.


They need time. They need slack. Some room. They need a lot of understanding.

New pastors need time to adjust, to learn you, to make connections, to find the path, to hear the heartbeat of the congregation, to learn the history of the church, to decide what God wants, to receive the vision from Heaven, and to make a few mistakes.

How’s that? New pastors make mistakes?

Yes. The new pastor needs time and room–the freedom, actually–to make a few mistakes.

Someone reacts, “The new pastor will make mistakes? Horrors! We cannot have that.”

Count on it, my friend. If the minister tries anything at all out of the ordinary, chances are some actions may be wrong-headed or ill-timed or misinterpreted.

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SOURCE: Crosswalk, Joe McKeever