It is that time of year again. No, it is not tourist season I am thinking about. No, it is not bear season I am thinking about. It is the season for United Methodist pastors to move. Moving day was a few weeks ago and a couple of Sundays have already come and gone. Pastors might find themselves ready to change a few things in their new church.
When I was knee high to a grasshopper as a young clergy person those with many years of wisdom taught me that unless the church was sacrificing cats don’t change a thing for the first year. This conventional wisdom reasoned that just the new pastor’s arrival was change enough. Further, like Mark Twain said, the only persons that likes change is a wet baby. Your people in your new church don’t want you changing everything. Who do you think you are!
This wisdom worked well for me.
However, in a recent appointment of my own I received different wisdom that was counter intuitive. Before I arrived I met with the lay leader of the church and he said if I was going to make changes, particularly when it came to worship, then make those changes now. He said I would have a grace period, a honeymoon if you will, a window to make changes. He went on to say that persons at this church expected the new pastor to make changes and put his or her stamp on things. So, I made changes and am happy to say I was not run out!
It appears to me there are at least two consideration when it comes to making changes early in a new appointment.
First, the pastor must consider the level of change. Moving the time of offering to a time after the message so persons give in response to the Word proclaimed is one thing. Changing the time of worship in your second week is another thing. In considering change, and the level of proposed changes, it behooves the new pastor to be as wise as the serpent and gentle as the dove.
Second, not only must the level of change be considered but also the amount of change. While in certain contexts change can occur early in a appointment, a wise pastor keeps a count of the number of changes made. Too much change too fast is like a trying to quench your parched throat by taking a drink out of a fire hydrant. You might end up choking!
Whose wisdom is right? Does it depend on context? What has been your approach to change in a new appointment?