Ways to Welcome Our New Pastor

Welcoming a new pastor in genuine and effective ways lays the groundwork for a healthy and vital relationship and for the development of stable, long-term ministries together.

As Shadyside Presbyterian Church looks forward to the arrival of our new Senior Pastor on September 27, 2021, we encourage you to review this compilation of ways to contribute to a warm welcome for the Reverend Austin Crenshaw Shelley and her family. The following suggestions, drawn from an article written by the Reverend Dr. Robert Crossman for the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, provide helpful guidance to congregations as they experience a pastoral transition. Recognizing that some recommendations will be fulfilled by church staff and leadership, there are still plenty of ways for individual members and friends to participate. We hope these suggestions may even inspire additional ideas beyond those listed to help surround the Shelleys with Christian love in our hospitable community of faith as they begin their ministry among us.

Prepare to Welcome Your New Pastor

  • Open your hearts and decide that you are going to love your new pastor.
  • Begin praying daily for the new pastor and family, even as you continue to pray for your departing pastor and family.
  • Invite church members individually to send cards of welcome and encouragement to the incoming pastor.

Say Good-bye to Your Departing Pastor in a Healthy Way

  • Show love, regard, and even grief for your departing pastor. This is one of the best things you can do for the new pastor.
  • Provide the congregation the opportunity to say thank you and good-bye to the outgoing pastor, even if things have not always gone well.
  • Express appreciation in ways that are consistent with what you have done in the past.
  • Do not invite the former pastor to return for weddings, funerals, or baptisms. This allows your former pastor to engage fully with his or her new congregation, and it establishes your new pastor as everyone’s pastor from the beginning.

Welcome Your New Pastor on Arrival

  • Stock the pastor’s refrigerator and pantry with some staples. Make sure to include child-friendly foods and snacks if children are arriving.
  • Have a small group on hand to greet the new pastor and family when they arrive and to help as needed.
  • Offer child care if there is an infant or toddler in the household.
  • Invite children in the household to do things with others of their same age.
  • Welcome any youth in the household by having church youth group members stop by and offer to show them around.

Continue the Welcome during the Entry Period

  • Deliver food/meals for the first few days. (Note: Contact Shadyside’s Meal Train Ministry by email: spchelpers@gmail.com.)
  • Give gift certificates to several of your favorite restaurants in the community.
  • Give the pastor and family a welcome reception on the first Sunday.
  • Plan a worship celebration of the new appointment.
  • Invite the new pastor to any social events held by church groups in the early months.
  • Make sure the pastor’s spouse and children, if applicable, are invited to Christian education classes and other appropriate small groups.
  • Continue to remember your new pastor and family in your daily prayers.

Help the New Pastor Become Familiar with the Congregation

  • Introduce yourself to the pastor repeatedly! You have one name to learn; your pastor has many names to learn.
  • Wear name tags. Even if name tags are not a tradition, the congregation can wear them for a few weeks to help the pastor learn names. (Note: Those to whom the church has issued name tags — including staff, officers, and ushers — might consider wearing their name tags to help with this initiative.)
  • Have an appropriate person offer to go with the pastor for introductions and support if there are particularly urgent pastoral situations (a member near death or a member who has just died).
  • Offer to help arrange small group sessions to meet and talk with the congregation.

Help the New Pastor Connect to the Community

  • Introduce your new pastor to other clergy in the community. Provide information on any ecumenical activities or associations.
  • Introduce the new pastor to public and community leaders.
  • Ask church members in civic clubs to take the new pastor to one of their meetings.

The Reverend Dr. Robert Crossman, Minister of New Church Starts and Congregational Advancement for the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church, is the primary author of this document. The Lewis Center staff and others provided input, suggestions, and editorial assistance.