Helping Your New Preacher Have a Great First Sunday

You’ve been through your last preacher leaving, a long and successful search for a new preacher, and now you’re ready to start a new chapter in the history of this congregation.

What could help the new preacher and this church get off to a good start?

My suggestion: give the new preacher a month off to transition from his previous church and prepare for a long, effective ministry at the new church.

Usually, the new preacher has been at his previous church for a long time. He and his family have formed close and lasting relationships that are being broken. It’ll never be the same. They have a funeral on their last Sunday at the old congregation and move during the week. We expect him to be excited next Sunday. He hasn’t found his Sunday socks from moving during the week. He hasn’t unpacked his books at his study. He and his family haven’t placed their furniture and unpacked boxes at home.

Paul and Barnabas finished their first missionary journey and returned to the sponsoring congregation. Notice what Luke says they did:

From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed.

Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. So they stayed there a long time with the disciples (Acts 14:26-28, NKJV).

  1. They recognized a completed project.
  2. They talked and rehearsed the great things God had done with them.
  3. They stayed a long time.

They weren’t retiring. Paul would go on two more missionary journeys, a journey to Rome, and perhaps other efforts Luke didn’t record. But they were pausing between projects.

Jesus taught His disciples to rest and He did that Himself (Mark 6:30-32, 45, 46).

How could a preacher afford it? Pay him. Encourage him to rest. Provide transitional counseling for him and his family. Often his wife and/or children are sad and reluctant to move. He may have been confused about his decision to go or stay. Or, even worse, he may have been dismissed at the previous congregation.

He will either process all this and get off to a fresh start — or he will bring the baggage with him and transfer his frustration through sermons and conversations.

Where did I come up with these unusual ideas?

They came from the confusion I had and the mistakes I made during times of transition. I wish I’d learned earlier the value of rest, time to think, and excellent counselors to listen and question me to do my homework before starting a new part of my life. Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection took three days. Often a new preacher doesn’t have that much time off between churches, and we expect him to be excited and at his best after one of the busiest, most stressful weeks of his life.

What if he doesn’t want to do it? That may be one of the best reasons to ask him to do it.

What if the church and he are saying, “We’ve already waited too long. It’s time to get on with the Lord’s work”? One of the marks of maturity is the ability to delay instant gratification for long-term gain.

It’s something to consider. I think it would’ve been a valuable gift to me and the churches I served to have been more intentional about transitions.

How much do I believe what I’ve just written? In our earlier transitions in interim ministry, we took off a minimum of a month between churches. We now take off two months. Nobody pays us to be off. It’s worth it to us and the next church we serve.

I’ve tried it both ways. It’s better to be rested, clear, and anticipating with eagerness the next opportunity than to be exhausted, confused, and disoriented while being expected to act like you have it all together.

I’ve never been happier, more relaxed, and looking forward to the next adventure. So far, it’s working!

What suggestions do you have to help with a good transition?


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Jerrie Barber
Disciple of Jesus, husband, grandfather, preacher, barefoot runner, ventriloquist

4 Responses to “Helping Your New Preacher Have a Great First Sunday

  • David R. Kenney
    5 years ago

    Unloading the truck is the easiest and quickest part. It can be uphill for a while from there. Moving is chaos. No one really appreciates that until they have had to do it more than once.

    • David,

      You are correct. I have found that unloading my insides is more difficult that finding my toothpaste.

  • travisirwin1
    5 years ago

    Moving can be chaotic epecially when you have little children running all over the place. No matter how much help the brethren give you on move day, it’s never enough for you to be ready to preach the next day or Sunday. A week or two off would be better than none.

  • Great suggestions! Never experienced anything like it. Since most churches pay the preacher on Sunday…