Tuesday, May 19, 2009

From the archives: making a healthy transition, #1

I've been blogging for four and a half years, with well over 300 posts. Somewhere in there is some decent stuff-- and, while I'm still writing new stuff, I'm going to start occasionally re-posting some of the older ones, particularly when they are timely.

And, since many who were seminarians a week ago are no longer seminarians, but now are seminary graduates, I'm going to re-post my series on making an effective and healthy transition into a new ministry opportunity. Starting now.

Originally posted in July, 2005:

Start your ministry by stacking your boxes of books by the door of your office. Now leave them there for the next two weeks.

It should be no surprise that, if I am convinced that the key to placement is relationships, I am also sure that relationships are the key to good transition. If one of the key questions for placement is, “Who do you love?” then surely one of the key questions for transition is, “How do you love?”

Forget the boxes of books, the adjustment to the new places, and the sermon you have to preach next Sunday. (No, not completely; but don't you have a few sermons you could re-work and save some prep time?) Begin your new ministry strong with a heavy focus on relationship-building. Let the logistics of the new position take care of themselves-- or at least wait a while.

In one of the positions I served, I went the other way: I jumped into the logistical details during the first weeks of ministry. I spent time setting up my office, unpacking books, organizing my schedule, and establishing mobile phone service. Looking back, it was a big mistake that hurt my ministry for the long-term.

After all, ministry is not about those things. Not about cell phones, bookshelves, or offices. Not about the contents of the books on the shelves or the appointments on the schedule. Not even about the sermons you preach-- not essentially. If no one is listening, it won't matter how good you preach, how many appointments you make, or how many books you read. And once they decide that you're interested in things other than relationships with them (whether that is the truth or not), they stop listening.

Jump into your new ministry with both feet by building relationships. That doesn't mean you can't do anything else; obviously you must have something to preach on Sunday, and you should take some time to prepare for that. But let the bulk of your time be spent with people. And make sure they can see that this is your priority; if you can, see to it that everyone in the church knows that they'll get time with you soon. Maybe not this week, but based on how much time you're spending with others...

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