Being the New Pastor at an Older Church

Josh Greene, Lead Pastor of First Baptist Church Fairdale, gives helpful and practical advice for new pastors who take a position of leadership at an older church. This topic is one that includes many of us at B21 and many of our brothers in the ministry. We are confident Josh’s insight will prove helpful. Read, learn, and share these points of advice with other brothers who are in this often complicated position. –

A few months back, I was interviewed about what advice I would give to a new younger pastor who is beginning to lead at an older established church. (I enjoyed this assignment because it deals with real life.)

They specifically asked me to give 5 steps that I would take. (For the record, this situation is what I went through in becoming the Pastor at FBC Fairdale.  I have been on staff at this church since 2003, and I have been the Lead Pastor since 2009.) Here they are:

1. See John 13:16 – Servant! I determined from day 1 to make myself approachable. I wanted everyone to know I am here for them. Literally. I am not too strict, too harsh, too cool, too poor, too godly, too wealthy, too smart, too fancy, nothing. I want all people to feel good about approaching me about anything. Whether that be to ask for a favor, or help, or money, or prayer, or to make a suggestion or complaint.  Focusing on being approachable sets the tone for good honest relationships that will last for a long time.

2. See 2 Timothy 3:16 – God’s Word! Establish right away that the Word of God is the authority. Not the preacher. (We aren’t Catholic. Or over-religious) God speaks and we listen. Thats it. Make sure everyone knows that. If you get mad over a Biblical issue, it cannot be mad at the preacher because the Bible says it. That foundational truth will solve so many headaches. No telling how many people have been shut-up or forced to stay silent because they knew they couldn’t argue with God.

3. See Acts 20:35 – Hard Work! I knew right away that people are impressed with work ethic. (Even the word “ethic” is a spiritual word, I bet you have never thought of that in that way before. haha.) So I am quick to take out the trash or mow the grass or dig ditches, etc. I am amazed that Paul makes this comment in this verse as his goodbye to Ephesus. So many ministers get a bad knock or reputation for being lazy, or playing golf, or not knowing how to do much else. Whether that is right or not doesn’t matter. The blue collar men are drawn to hard workers. Hard work pays off. Colossians 3:23

4. See Hebrews 13:17 – Shepherd! I determined right away that I would KNOW our people. The Spirit will not let me be fine with having sheep that I do not know on a personal level. So In my first year, I arranged to have a sit down meeting with everyone in the church. We devoted Tuesdays to this. Our church secretary would schedule me meetings with everybody in the church. One family, couple or individual at a time. We discussed salvation, church involvement, and gifts. It was awesome. You cannot disciple anyone at all, no one, if you do not know them on a personal level. Shepherd!

5. See Luke 10:2 – Prayer! I established right away that we would pray a lot. I set a goal of 2 hours a week of church prayer time. 30 minutes sunday mornings at 9am. 30 minutes on Wednesday nights. 20 minutes on Sunday nights. And lots of other smaller pieces in other parts. We turned Wednesday night’s Bible study into a prayer focus. We cannot do this work without prayer. True religion is Spiritual. The Spirit must do it. We know that. And we don’t at all want to try and make it happen on our own. That’s worthless! So we pray.

– This post originally appeared on Josh’s personal blog.