Shepherding Well – Your First Year in a New Pastorate

January 17, 2019 • Lee Faler

So there you are! You’ve went through the process of being affirmed as the pastor of a church. You’re filled with excitement and you can’t wait to get started, but you find yourself asking the question “Where do I start?” 
The purpose of this article is to offer some practical advice regarding your first year as the pastor of a church. I hope this article encourages you, and is beneficial for you as a pastor.


Maybe the previous pastor was not committed to systematic expository preaching. Maybe he was. Regardless of the previous pastor’s preaching style, nothing is better for the people of God than the word of God. God is committed to using His word to transform the people of God. The temptation for many new pastors, is to immediately start a vision series for the church within his first month. Let melovingly advise you to not do that and instead give your new congregation the word. If they aren’t used to systematic exposition then begin with a small book of the Bible that could easily be covered in 3-5 sermons. 


What do I mean when I say this? Let’s think about this together. Prior to a missionary beginning their ministry in a given area, they learn the language of the people, and they learn their culture. Missionaries study their new context in order to hopefully increase their ministerial effectiveness. Pastors should do the same with their new congregation. Learn the language, culture, and context of the new congregation. This takes time. This takes effort. This is worth it. Too many times pastors think like a new CEO, and immediately rush in to change the direction of the ship and are promptly thrown overboard. Think like a missionary, not like a CEO.


As you serve through your first year you will inevitably see things that you want to change. My suggestion is for you to keep a list of those things. After your first year revisit that list. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does this need to change to better serve the church, or does this need to change in order to meet my preferences?
  2. Is this change a change that the Bible commands must happen?
  3. What is the level of urgency behind this change? Put a number 1-5 beside each change representing the urgency behind each change. The number one means no urgency at all, and the number 5 means that the change needed to happen yesterday. 

So many times we make the mistake of saying that people don’t like change. That’s a lie. People change all the time. We change our phones, our jobs, our cars, our underwear and many other things. People don’t like how change is handed down to them. By being slow with change, you allow yourself time to get to know the people, and in turn grow to love them. 

“You can’t lead a people that you don’t love.”

Johnny Hunt


Johnny Hunt once said “You can’t lead a people that you don’t love.” Spend time with them. Learn names. Visit people in their homes. Learn their stories. Visit them in the hospital. Visit them in their homes. Invite them over for dinner. Pray for them and pray with them. People will follow a pastor that loves them. Effective shepherds will always smell like sheep.
God bless you new pastor! Let’s serve faithfully for the glory of the true Senior Pastor, Jesus Christ.

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