I received an email from a young man about to be voted into his first pastorate. He asked a very wise and important question that all young pastors should be asking, “What should my first year look like and how much change should come?” Here was my response with hopes it will serve others in this similar position:
Good to hear from you and blessings on your first church pastorate if the vote goes through. There is a very simple pattern you want to follow in your first year and even the first several years:
“Preach the Word. Love the people. Don’t change anything.”
You must win the trust of the people before you can change anything that will be difficult or controversial. However, I know things will come up. But if at all possible, follow this rule. Remember, the way God changes a church is when his word is preached and people are fed and changed by it. It is also through the preaching of the gospel that the goats become visible among the sheep in the church.
You will control what comes from the pulpit from the first week you are there and that is the foundation to revitalize a church. Preach faithfully. Sacrifice in caring for those people. Win them as their shepherd. Then change will come as the Lord reveals the right timing to do so throughout the years.
This young man possessed wisdom beyond his years to ask this question. Whether you are entering into your first church, or not, never underestimate the power of the preached word and a diligent, faithful effort to know and care for the flock.