Back in the summer of 2005, I wrote a series of posts for those who had recently placed on the idea of how to start your ministry well. Having recently made a transition-- and having completed my first 90 days-- I thought it would be helpful to re-examine those sage bits of advice and see how much I still agreed with what I said back then!
Transition tip #1 was to focus on building the relationships. There's no way to disagree with this principle, in my view-- ministry is ALL about relationships. While we might be most excited about preaching and teaching when we are in seminary, once we are in ministry then the most vital part of our ministry is the relationships we have with our flock.
That said, let me comment a little about the hyperbole of my initial post. The first time around, I advised that a new pastor might leave the books in the boxes for the first couple of weeks. While there's good truth in that-- I still think the principle of putting relationships before "setting up" is essential-- you should take this with a grain of salt. At my church, the people were so excited I was there (really, they were just excited that they had a Pastor), they wanted me to settle in and get my office organized.
When I talked to my friend Craig about a week after we moved here, he asked me, "are the books still in the boxes?" The answer was, "yes and no." No-- I had begun to unpack my books, at the behest of my people. But also, yes-- in the sense that I was following the spirit of that advice, putting relationships first.
I also mentioned in my previous post about not focusing heavily on sermon preparation for the first few weeks. Let me say that one of the best things I did was to take my own advice in this way. Not that I wasn't concerned about my sermons; rather, I utilized a four-week series that I had initially prepared when serving in pulpit supply. While I did take time to refresh these sermons with thorough review, updated illustrations, and re-consideration of application, having the foundations already laid was a huge benefit-- probably saving me 8-10 hours of prep time a week for the first month I was here.
In all, as I re-examine my first principle of transitions, I say it still largely holds. Take stock of your people as you are getting to know them, and that will help you know how firmly (or loosely) to hold onto this principle.