For reasons that are different from the typical, PASTORIA believes that the first 90 days for a pastor in a new position or role are critical in setting the direction of ministry for the next three years.
There is much to unlearn as well as learn about pastoral onboarding if the aim of the pastor is to innovate and succeed in a particular ministry context.
For example, we reject the notion that a pastor should make no changes for the first year of ministry in order “to get to know” the ministry as this is a loss of a critical opportunity for appropriately building ministry momentum.
We also reject the notion that it takes up to seven years for a pastor to become truly effective in ministry for the ministry may be dead by the time a pastor follows this presumptive path.
To simplify, PASTORIA sees the first 90 days in at least three inter-related aspects:
1. Teaching & Formation
The first 90 days are often believed to be a time when the ministry should get to know the pastor in an easy-going manner. While we find this to be true in general (since who wants to learn about someone in a difficult and painful manner), PASTORIA believes that a key outcome of the first 90 days of getting to know the pastor is for the ministry to learn the pastor’s expectations and method of engaging in conflict and producing great results (a.k.a. problem solving).
The pastor should come in with the presumption that, no matter how much similarity and ease of induction into the life of the church, the pastor and the leadership will ultimately experience conflict if there is an intention to the grow the church. It should probably also go without saying that the ministry always gets into conflict with itself. In any case, the only way to make progress and not get stuck at a moment of conflict is for both the pastor and the lay leadership to be able to predictably engage in conflict so as to produce results.
2. Speed & Money
In the first 90 days, the pastor must quickly assess a ministry’s potential by determining two critical questions:
First, how fast does the ministry do things? And, second, what do people give money for?
Speed is arguably the only ministry metric that matters. A large church that does everything slow will last a long time because time allows for its operations to be methodical and stable, providing optimal momentum for long-term survivability. However, its slow speed may prevent the church from executing adaptations necessary for a rapidly changing ministry context thereby keeping it alive for as long as possible until it ultimately dies.
In contract, a church, of any size, that values speed may not enjoy stability for the long term. However, its greater capacity for adaptability will ensure that it will aim for growth under any conditions – in fact, it will actively seek out and plant itself into environments where the probability of growth is much higher.
Money is an indicator of quality as much as sustainability. Specifically, money is a clear indicator that a ministry is in sync with a giver’s life interests, values, and context to the point where they are willing to support its growth by giving money. The pastor must ascertain the “why” of giving in order to understand, not just the quality of the ministry from the giver’s perspective but also, the giver’s context which will provide insight into the direction of the ministry in the long-term.
3. Strategy & Innovation
Adapting Clayton Christensen’s Three Types of Innovation, the pastor must envision transformational leadership not as a wholesale replacement of the present but in actuality in three necessary actions:
First, which parts of the ministry must become more efficient? – These are parts of the ministry that are producing great results while also incurring great financial, labor, and time costs. So, a simple dose of technology or outsourcing in some small way could free up resources to be diverted elsewhere. Either way, actions here show the ministry that the pastor is being attentive and showing support.
Second, which parts of the ministry must increase their quality or effectiveness? – These are parts of the ministry that are already stable and doing well, but where a moderate amount of improvement would yield some (but not extreme) growth. An example of improvement might be additional training of ministry leaders or additional resources for expanded marketing efforts. Actions here would show the ministry that the pastor’s judgment is fairly in sync with that of the ministry.
Third, which parts of the ministry must come into existence but does not yet exist? – This is the development of new ministries that is determined based on the ministry’s capabilities as well as the conditions of the ministry context. This is neither the improvement of an existing ministry – it is the starting from scratch of a new ministry that would connect with persons outside of the core constituency of the current ministry.
As a whole, these three inter-related aspects are critical for the new pastor’s first 90 days are the first of a longer list to be expounded upon in an upcoming audio guide from PASTORIA.
last updated: april 3, 2019