Beginning Well as the New Preacher

A friend asked recently for suggestions for a preacher beginning his work with a new church.

Here are some of my thoughts:

Check references on the church you’re considering before your first interview. Why travel hundreds of miles, spend hours in interviews, preach your best try-out sermon, and move — to find out, if you had done your homework, you’d have learned there is no way you would fit in this place?

In full-time work, my rule was to talk with preachers for the past twenty-five years and many others.

Preachers Checking References on Churches

Interview well. Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions. What are your goals and vision for this congregation? What are you doing to see those accomplished? What’s expected of me, my wife, and my children? How often do the elders meet? When? Will you include me in those meetings? How long do you want your next preacher to stay? If I’m doing something you don’t like or not doing something you expect, how will I find out about it? If you decide I no longer need to be your preacher, will I find out about it before the meeting when I’m released? How will we get to know each other and our families? What interaction does the leadership team have outside the regular meetings?

Work out a clear written job description and contract. Don’t agree to move before that’s done. You lose negotiating power after you unload the U-Haul.

Developing a Working Agreement

Do Agreements Between Christians Need to Be Written?

Place membership. Ask about this during the interviews before you decide to move. Some groups don’t consider the preacher a part of the congregation. He is an outside contractor. I don’t want to be a part of a congregation that I’m not a part of.

Preachers Placing Membership

More on Preachers Placing Membership

If the elders or another group hasn’t planned it, ask for orientation: directories for you and your family, keys, times of services, special events, how to send and assure the quality of PowerPoint, “hot issues” you should know about, what needs to be encouraged, what strong points you can help strengthen.

Soon after I arrive, I like to have lunch with each elder individually. I prefer to pick him up at his place of employment, learn about what he does, then go to lunch. I want to know more about him, his family, and his interests.

Start learning more about the members. In smaller congregations, Gail and I have been able to visit members in a short time. At one church, we started having people decline our requests to visit. One family said, “Don’t come. Our house is such a mess it’d be embarrassing.” Once or twice a month Gail started cooking vegetable soup, cornbread, and a dessert. We invited an elder, his wife, and about five other families. We had new members mixed into the groups. After the meal, we asked the people to introduce themselves. Then we played two or three rounds of the UNGAME. It’s a game we played in our family as our children were growing up.


Start getting to know fellow preachers in the area. For all my full-time and interim preaching, monthly workshops-luncheons of preachers have been helpful. I find ways to interact and to give and receive encouragement.

Preachers’ Workshop

Start out like you can hold out. One of my mistakes in full-time ministry was to start wide open and increase my efforts the longer I stayed. That wasn’t helpful for my family, the church, and me. Start out working entergetically and taking time off regularly. God thought it was a good idea to work six days and rest one (Exodus 34:21). Don’t start out working eighty hours a week planning to slow down later.

Find a good counselor for yourself and referrals for people who come to you who need to see a trained counselor.

Who Is Your Counselor?

What have you found helpful for a good beginning to a new work?

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

2 Responses to “Beginning Well as the New Preacher

  • Ron Gambill
    3 years ago

    Good recommendations and it works when a new eldership is appointed, which you have experienced. Going through that same process with a new eldership really helps to build a strong, trusting relationship.

    • Ron,

      Excellent observation.

      When change comes, there is a new beginning.

      It’s good to begin intentionally instead of accidentally.