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The Art Of The Start

July is the time of year when many, many Methodist pastors begin serving new “appointments” — they have moved from one church in the connection to begin serving another.

So what’s the best way for a new pastor to begin serving that “new” church? How does the pastor get a sense of the place, the people, the history, and the future of that congregation with which he or she has been entrusted?

(Note: I’ve only been through this twice in 20 years, have no intention of doing it again any time soon, so this is merely hypothetical.)

I once heard Kennon Callahan describe two different approaches to the dilemma.

Approach One: The pastor gathers groups of 10-12 people together over a period of several months. At each gathering, the pastor asks, “what are your dreams and visions for this church going forward?” Much marking on butcher block paper ensues.

Approach Two: The pastor gathers groups of 10-12 people together over a period of several months. At each gathering the pastor asks of individuals around the semi-circle: “tell me where you were born and what’s happened since.”

Dear God, let me be an Approach Two kind of pastor.

The first treats the congregation as an institution, concerned primarily with function, process, and accomplisment.

The second recognizes that the congregation is a collection of individuals, each of whom has fascinating mix of brokenness and beauty.

Tell me where you were born and what’s happened since then.

Whether you are starting a new pastoral work or not, it’s a question well worth asking.

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