What can you accomplish that first year of a pastorate?

"During these first six to twelve months, the concrete is still wet," an elder advised his pastor following the second church board meeting. "This is your chance to make your impression. Soon it will set and be too hard." It sounds like good advice. The new pastor may have an opportunity in the early months to make major changes never again possible.

Yet other wise counselors say, "Don't change anything the first year. Build credibility." Which advice does the newly arrived pastor follow?

As the new pastor at First Presbyterian in Fresno, I wondered. In my search for answers, I decided to contact other pastors who had experienced the awkwardness and opportunities of that inaugural year.

The Hare and the Tortoise

The first thing I learned is that no one pattern fits every pastor and congregation. Consider these two examples.

Roger Thompson went to Trinity Baptist in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, a two-hundred-member church in decline. Within the first year, they rewrote the church constitution, simplified ...

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