As 2014 seminary graduates enter their first months of professional ministry, I offer these “can’t miss” tips to minimize the length of a first ministerial call. Following these six easy steps as a new pastor should afford you the chance to search for your next ministry opportunity in record time.
- Be sure to let them know what they’re doing wrong. Is the congregation still using the old blue (or even the old red) hymnbooks? Are they stuck in the past using traditional, gendered language for God? Is their worship order or building policy or ministry style inconsistent with what you learned in seminary? Be sure to change things as soon as possible. Every congregation needs a newly minted seminary graduate to set them straight.
- Be available all the time. Did someone you have never met call you in their hour of need? Their problem is now your problem. You were supposed to be with your family? On a date? At a concert? Cancel. Every time someone contacts the pastor with an emergency—the pastor must act immediately.
- Count other people’s money. Sure it’s hard to confront someone who isn’t being generous enough with the church, but that shouldn’t prevent you from stewing about it. Spend at least a couple hours every week reflecting on how little money is being put in the plate and resenting the new cars and nice homes of your parishioners. As a bonus, you can take every possible opportunity to make comments about how little people are giving to the church. How will people learn to give if you don’t shame them?
- Target your sermons toward individuals you find difficult. The more thinly veiled, the better. Nothing helps people to see the error of their ways faster than feeling singled out from the pulpit.
- Keep boundaries like they are written in granite. Is someone in the emergency room on your day off? Give them a call tomorrow afternoon. Were you at a meeting until 10:00 last night? Don’t come in before 11:00 today. People need to understand that when a meeting runs late into the night, it’s hard to get up for work the next morning.
- Assume that your predecessor was an idiot. There’s a reason that he left, after all. And your gifts are much different (and by different, I mean better) for a reason, right? Your job is basically to clean up the mess made by previous pastors—make sure everyone knows that.
If you are looking to fast-track your career by moving quickly toward your second call, these tips will certainly get you started. What other helpful hints would you offer for minimizing the tenure of new pastors?
Scott Hauser is pastor and head of staff at First Presbyterian Church in Clarion, Pennsylvania.