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The First Year

Beginning a new pastorate means first establishing a relationship in which trust can grow. Doing so will benefit each partner for more than the first months, but for years to come.
—Robert Kemper

Protestant clergy follow what John Wesley called "an itinerant tradition." We change pastorates often. Clergy and parishes come to many endings and consequently many beginnings. But just because the process of changing leaders is commonplace, it doesn't mean it's uniform or easy.

I've made this transition three times during my ministry. I've discovered that old opinion—that the first year is critical—is correct. How I handle that first year makes a huge difference in the rest of my stay at a church. Having been through three first years, I've learned a few things.

The Goal: Building Mutual Trust

I've found that the essential factor in enduring, mutually satisfying pastor-parish relationships is trust. More particularly, the congregation and pastor need to allow each other to fulfill specialized roles, ...

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