A few months ago, I wrote a post about leaving well. Often after you leave something, you start something new.
Leaving something and starting something are two different things. They both have their hurts and their joys, but you must approach them differently. Now that I’ve been in the new ministry for almost a year, I can look back at that first month or two and realize what helped and what didn’t.
Here are five things you can do to start a new ministry job well:
- Listen – When you first start, you don’t know what you don’t know. There are new processes, programs, events, people, jargon, and ways of doing things that will be different from where you came from. It’s important that you listen to everyone. Ask questions in a curious and non-confrontational manner. The first week is always tough because of all the onboarding, but if you come in with a teachable spirit, you can go farther faster. But this goes beyond the first week. I’ve been at my new church for almost a year now and just last week a yearly event was mentioned with no context, and everyone just nodded and moved on. I did the same because we had done something that sounded similar earlier in the year. However, in casual conversation a week later, I realized I was very wrong. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand. Your life will be so much easier.
- Get quick wins – When I first started at my church, the volunteer culture was in disarray. The team was quickly dwindling, and I needed help fast. So, I approached some people who helped me move, but weren’t involved in Kidmin, and invited them to join me. It was a great win for the first week. As time went on, I reached out to former volunteers, especially the ones who had stepped down in the interim, and I asked them to return. I didn’t get all of them, but I was able to double my team in a few months. Don’t try to change the big things, just little things. Look at the paperwork. Could it use a facelift?How’s the parent communication? Can you add something that has been lacking?Is there something your senior leader is expecting you to do? How can you quickly get started to show progress?
- Honor the previous leader – Sometimes previous leaders leave the ministry in great condition and you can pick up where they left off. This is often not the case. Either way, find things that previous leaders did well and sing their praises. Most likely you’re inheriting their team. It won’t go well for you if you talk about previous leaders in a negative way.
- Set expectations - Make sure to differentiate yourself from your predecessor. The parents and volunteers will be looking to you to continue the programs and events they loved and maybe even bring back some things that had disappeared over the years. Also, many times they will expect you to lead the same way the last person did. None of this is wrong, it’s just human nature. However, it is important that you establish programs that work for you and the church as well.
- Involve others in the vision casting process – This was a new one for me, and probably set me up for success over the last year. In my last few transitions I came in with a vision, told everyone where we were going, and hoped for the best. I was all set to do that again here, but I had a mentor suggest that I take the current leadership team through a vision casting workshop (led by him) to develop the vision going forward. It took several hours, but by the end, 10 of the ministry’s top leaders totally bought into the vision and now understand me and my leadership style. Their buy-in greatly supported my efforts as I continued to cast vision to the rest of the volunteers and parents and supported the changes I thought needed to be made.
Starting a new ministry journey is exciting and usually filled with joy. There are a lot of new faces and new expectations coming from all sides. It can be scary and a little overwhelming, but don’t let it consume you. Take it slow, ask questions, and get to know your people. This can help you to get set up for a long and successful ministry tenure.