This summer many of our congregations and schools will be welcoming new church workers such as teachers, pastors, DCEs, and others into their midst. This is a very exciting time. The new church worker and members of the congregation alike will optimistically hope and pray for a good and positive start---and the beginning of a longstanding, helpful, and God-pleasing ministry. As a congregational member once wrote me about a new pastor: “We want them (him, his spouse, and their children) to be happy here and have a good, long ministry with our congregation.” Such hopefulness and optimism is a good and Spirit-blessed thing.
An intentional plan, though, is needed to build on that early excitement and hope. Intentional planning for how a congregation will support their church worker and his or her spouse and children is an important first step. The next step is, of course, to do what is planned.
Systems of support sometimes just naturally appear. Encourage these. But planned development of support for the church worker is also important. Support of the worker should not be left to accidental development. It needs to become part of the makeup, or DNA, of the congregation and, if applicable, the early childhood center or the school. All of us share mutual responsibility for the care and support of each other in the Body of Christ, but special consideration needs to be given to the care and support of the church’s workers.
Here are a few tips for supporting a new church worker:
- How will the new worker get to know members of the congregation or parents of children in a school in personal and more informal ways? Schedule several small gatherings, perhaps at homes of members or at the church or school where the new worker and members can informally talk together.
- How will the new worker get to know the community? Organize community orientations. Drive the worker and his or her family around the community, pointing out places of history and city or town services and government, or spots to shop. Provide a listing of area doctors and other service providers. Be active with them in a search for housing, if needed.
- How can the worker and her or his spouse and children be eased in managing the stressors involved in moving? Ask if they would like some help in unpacking; provide meals for at least the first several days; ask questions about what they need and keep asking.
Intentional planning in a congregation or school will likely involve many, many more things than the few tips above. The point is to put hospitality and support of the new worker high on the agenda of the school or congregation, and to do so intentionally.
It is also good to think about the support of the workers of the church in broader ways. Intentional planning puts hands and feet to the idea that "we want them to be happy here, and have a good, long ministry with our congregation.” The book Holding Up the Prophet’s Hand: Supporting Church Workers can be very helpful, especially when it is read and discussed by the leadership of a congregation or school.