As our pastor search committee continues the task of selecting an interim minister for our congregation, I thought now might be a good time to think about the ways we, as a congregation, could prepare to welcome a new leader to our pulpit.

As I searched for suggestions, I was reminded of one of the governing rules that, I believe, makes the Presbyterian church unique from so many others. We are one of the few denominations that actually allows the congregation to search for and choose a minister that they believe is a good fit. In many cases, the minister is appointed to serve a congregation.

As Presbyterians, we have the power to choose for ourselves who will lead our congregation. That is another reason our search committee is such a valuable asset to our church community. The task is not easy, and although the general congregation doesn’t see the all the steps the committee must take to complete its task, please remember that it is one that requires commitment and endless hours of time and dedication to make a decision that will affect us all. Our prayers and support will give them the strength they need to make the right decisions.

Once we have a minister in place, what does he need from us? Most of my research led me back to an article by Robert Crossman, from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership. Crossman offers 50 ways to welcome your new pastor. He breaks the process into steps, so I will share with you five suggestions he gave to congregations as they prepare for the new pastor.

  1. Open your hearts. Decide that you are going to love your new pastor.
  2. Begin praying daily for the new pastor and family. At this point, also pray for our search team, that the person they choose is exactly the one who will help to make a positive change in all our lives.
  3. Once he or she has been announced, send cards of welcome and encouragement to the incoming pastor.
  4. Know that welcoming your new pastor in genuine and effective ways lays the ground work for a healthy and vital relationship and the development of stable long-term ministries together. This is the person who will help us prepare in the search for a permanent pastor.  A strong relationship with the interim can only help us to grow as a congregation, now and into our future.
  5. Plan for the transition. Sometimes we believe others are handling the details of welcoming this new family. If each of us, individually, puts forth an effort to be open and welcoming, we will be even stronger as a whole. Talk to your deacons, and to the elders. Offer to help in whatever way is best for you.

As the Easter season approaches, let it bring growth, strength and new life into this loving community that we call Northminster.