Congrats! Welcome to your first days on the new job. You did it! You are here! Wherever here is, you are there!
Before you dive headlong into your plans, programs, and redrafting your entire philosophy of ministry, I want to introduce you to 5 people to engage in the first 14 days of your new ministry assignment.
#1 Senior Pastor (as a leader)
Make plans for a long first coffee or lunch with your senior leader within the first 5 days.
Don’t wait for this meeting.
You put it on their schedule.
Ask the questions, listen to the stories, learn about their relationship and history with the church. If you hope to make holy change in the future, start by learning the history of the church and its current leadership. Your senior pastor relationship is a prism for dynamically good or frustrating ministry. Build the block of trust and compassion from day one.
#2 Fellow Staff Team (as humans)
At Lifeway Students, we call this your “first team,” because you usually meet with them on the regular. It’s easy to get it twisted, because you are leading a student ministry team, but you are, first and foremost, a member of the leadership team. You will spend a great deal of time with your staff team. It is important to know them as fully human, fallible, and sincere.
Try to meet with a few of them in the first two weeks, and engage them as humans with lives, not just inside the required staff or department meetings. Learn more about them than the work they do, and in doing so, they will get to know you for you.
#3 Search Committee/HR Team (whoever interviewed and hired you)
The folks that met with you, interviewed you, vetted you, and approved you are not done with you.
You shouldn’t be done with them either.
You need their prayer, access, and support to learn the names, faces, and history of the ministry they have tasked you with leading. Make a stern commitment to follow up with them in gratitude (letters, cards, notes), but also proactively for insight (calls and coffees). They saw something in you that fit what the church needed. Now that you are on the other side, don’t forget to ask about what it was they saw.
#4 The Newcomer (the newest member)
Meet with the person/family who joined the church most recently. They are in the same spot as you! What are they learning, where do they feel supported? What drew them to the church?
If there is a new member class or growth track, go through it. Be a part of the community formation processes from the perspective of someone new and not as someone who was newly hired.
It’s hard to get back your first impressions of being a part of a new community, because once you are beloved you are treated differently than a newcomer. Don’t miss out on what you could learn because you are looking instead to make plans.
#5 Caretakers/Custodial Staff
There is an ancient Greek saying: “Those who have keys, unlock doors.” Do not neglect the men and women who lock, unlock, clean, and calendar the use of the church facilities, vehicles, gyms, and equipment. It is important to know not just the names, but the stories of those who probably put more time into the church campus than anyone else.
Most tenured volunteers, parents with multiple students, local principal(s), JV coaches, neighboring church youth pastors, and local coffee shop baristas.
And also, message us! We are praying for the best in this new season. We would love to share our roadmap of phases towards healthy and successful ministry. There is a way forward!
Remember you are more than the job. You were called to serve, and there is a great number of witnesses in the cloud standing in ready and prayerful support.
This post was written by Zac Workun. Zac serves as the Student Ministry Training Specialist for Lifeway and is one of the co-founders of Youth Ministry Booster, Lifeway Students’ collaboration and training network. He has served the local church in various youth ministry roles for over 15 years.