A few days after Australia's new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull took office The Age by Michael Gordon ran a fascinating piece on the 10 Commandments for the new PM and these ten had such alliances to a fresh Christian minister coming to a new pastorate that I thought it provident to list them.
There is an old saying that any new Minister to a fresh pastorate has what's referred to as a 'honeymoon period' which is usually about six months, after which time the expectation is that he/she will return to the routine and ideas the previous ministers had succumb.
In that 'honeymoon period' new ministers try it on (as it were), they do not know there the dead bodies lie (the church under currents), they get weird and wonderful ideas about church growth (the congregation has heard it all before) and they begin to identify who are the 'king makers' (those was actually steer the congregation).
There is a story that so exemplifies this that I have often repeated: The church council (Deacons, Elders, whatever) was an all man culture and they had prayed carefully and thoughtfully for six months on a particular decision and finally the big meeting came, and the motion that had been so carefully and prayerfully considered was voted upon and passed.
Each of the deacons / elders went home and told their respective wives this confidential decision and as the wives knew a whole lot more about the congregation make up and where the dead bodies lay, and as one, told their husbands that it will never work and it will need to be changed. It was!
10 Commandments for new ministers
Maintain the Charm
Any minister coming into a fresh congregation has indelible charm. The trick is to maintain such charm even after the folk get to know you a whole lot better!
Every congregation get excited when a new minister comes into their midst. Expectations are high. What new ideas and excitement will be bring. Managing such expectations is no small feat.
Take the party room with you
This is the minister's terms are the church council (deacons / elders). Whatever a new minister does he / she needs to have the council behind him / her 100%. How the new minister handles the one or two 'agin' everything he proposes is certainly a challenge.
Select your ministry wisely
The new minister should be able to figure out who in the congregation are movers and shakers and willing to try anything and to get them into leadership roles is no small feat.
Get the office right
Today many churches have office administration staff and those who have solid wisdom. These people are critical to get right, especially in church life. There are strategic leaks in church offices are in secular politics.
No three word slogans
Church life and theology is far more complicated than any salvation or church growth slogan. These need to be nurtured and carefully explained. Never treat the congregation as stupid. They are not. There are always a few who are top people in their fields.
Court Mike and Jay
The Age's article spoke in this vein of specific State Premiers who see things differently and willing to try something fresh. So too in church politics. There will inevitably be a ground swell within the congregation who are willing to forge ahead.
Use your time wisely
Large congregations expect their senior minister / pastor to be like a leading corporate executive with a pastoral team whose members have specific responsibilities. Then old saying, you don't have a dog and bark too is true. But in many congregations there is only the Minister. The task is to get a team of keen and willing volunteers involved.
There are many pools in church life and at times, some of those pools get very muddy and it is at this time that the minister needs to maintain perspective of the overall very positive picture.
Don't underestimate your opponent
This is perhaps the most important of all these 10 Commandments. It applies in churches, missions, welfare agencies, home missions – any associated Christian group. There will always be those against you and if you underestimate them, you do so at your peril. Church politics is deadly. Moreover, each party think they are doing God's work. Go figure!
In all these, after 38 years in Christian ministry I've seen them all, witnessed them all, engaged in the broth, won and lost battles, but never a war. Ministers need breastplates of titanium and shoulder pads created from a mixture of cushion and metal.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html