Moses’ trek to the top of Mount Sinai and his receipt of the ten commandments came up in the lectionary lately. Call it coincidence or divine timing, but I happened to be preaching that Sunday at a congregation that was two weeks away from calling a new senior pastor … and I had been invited to speak directly to ways the church could welcome her new leader. I took the Sinai commandments and translated them into practices to covenant around as this minister and this congregation began their journey together. Here are the first five:
- Thou shalt keep God first. Relationships built on shared faith lead to fruitful mutual ministry, and that is the goal of the clergy-congregation bond. Invite God into all your plans for welcoming and interacting with your new minister, and your belonging to one another will get off to a fast start.
- Thou shalt open yourselves to your new minister’s ideas and gifts. Your congregation no doubt has tried and true ways of being church together. You likely also have some traditions and practices that need either to be memorialized or revitalized. Your new minister will bring experiences, gifts, and fresh eyes to your church. Allow your minister to exercise them in ways that strengthen your witness, even if that means smashing a few idols in the process.
- Thou shalt be mindful of how you use God’s name. Names – and the ways we use them – have power. Use God’s in heartfelt prayers for your new minister and your journey together. Try out using relevant adjectives for God in your devotional time: welcoming God, life-giving God, loving God, surprising God.
- Thou shalt rest and urge your pastor to do the same. You are near the end of a long interim period, which tends to deplete a congregation’s energy. Take your hard-earned sabbath so that you will be rejuvenated for the mission God has for this church. And remember that your new minister, though no doubt excited to be with you, will likely be tired from all the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual efforts that moving requires.
- Thou shalt tend to your relationships with your new minister, minister’s family (if applicable), your current staff, and one another. Pay attention to people who are struggling with the transition. Be vulnerable with each other – this will build deep trust that you will rely on in the years to come.
Stay tuned for the other five commandments, coming next week.