Rookie Pastors: Know What You Don’t Know, and Grow From There

In the first few years of leading in a new Senior Pastor role, it’s not the answers you don’t have that will set you back.

What promises to halt progress, and likely even cause you to second-guess your calling, are the questions that stem from the signals you missed during the courtship and hiring process.

Here are 11 warning signs of church dysfunction that new pastors might miss when interviewing…

…Sunday School leadership that spends more time decorating their classrooms than preparing their lessons

…the “Hall of Former Pastor Portraits” is carefully arranged so as to have plenty of room for many more

…the church’s website has a copy of the bylaws readily accessible in less than 3 clicks

…teal sanctuary carpet from the late 1980s that, in the name of stewardship, just keeps getting “steam cleaned” with a grocery store rental instead of replaced

…the youth minister prides his or herself in running off all but 10-12 kids because the others just weren’t serious enough about “going deep in their faith”

…spouses are encouraged to attend conferences with the Pastor because you will be using vacation days

…everyone who has been, currently is, or might one day like to be serve in a volunteer role has a copy of the master key

…each “visitor parking” place is full starting with the 8:00 am service, every week, rain or shine

…there are more puppets in the children’s ministry office than there are books

…the pastor is invited to deacon, elder or governing board meetings, “as needed”

…during the interview process, you are always snuck into the church through a back door

While these are extreme examples, each of these signs maintain a firm footing in a reality from which every leader can relate.

Many new pastors let their natural optimism and confidence overshadow theorganizationally obvious during a season of transition. Hope for what could and should be shades the reality of what actually is. Then, during the subsequent honeymoon season, these rookie leaders, well intentioned and operating from search team assurances, tend to run headlong into a large cultural roadblock that overwhelms their abilities and undermines their leadership.

A new pastor does not need to just learn where the cultural sacred cows of the past are grazing.

They need to also be a positive part of making the necessary adjustments for a healthy and productive future. Active participation in a season of uncovering identity and direction for the church, as in the Auxano Vision Framing Process could be a new pastor’s best practice.

Ultimately, success for rookie pastors does not come from knowing everything about your new assignment… it does begin with knowing what you don’t know, and growing from there.

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Bryan Rose

As Lead Navigator for Auxano, Bryan Rose has a strong bias toward merging strategy and creativity within the vision of the local church and has had a diversity of experience in just about every ministry discipline over the last 12 years. With his experience as a multi-site strategist and campus pastor at a 3500 member multi-campus church in the Houston Metro area, Bryan has a passion to see “launch clarity” define the unique Great Commission call of developing church plants and campus, while at the same time serving established churches as they seek to clarify their individual ministry calling. Bryan has demonstrated achievement as a strategic thinker with a unique ability to infuse creativity into the visioning process while bringing a group of people to a deep sense of personal ownership and passion.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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