I have developed a list of ten key pastoral transition challenges after having read Michael Watkins’ book, The First 90 Days. Here they are . . .
1. Mentally Transition
Perhaps the biggest pitfall I face is assuming whatever particular areas of success I have had in previous pastoral experiences will result in the same successes at Highland Park. I must mentally transition to this new experience and rely on God instead of systems that have pragmatically resulted in growth and development.
2. Accelerate Learning
I must climb the learning curve as quickly as possible at Highland Park. This means understanding what ministries we have, how they operate, what systems and structures we have, comprehending our ecclesial culture, and also grasping the political dynamics that are extant.
3. Match Strategy to Situation
I must diagnose our situation with clarity and accuracy. What are our greatest challenges? What are our greatest immediate and long-term opportunities?
4. Secure Early Wins
Early wins will help me to establish credibility as a leader and build momentum. In these first few weeks, I must identify opportunities to build personal credibility. In my first 90 days as Highland Park’s pastor, I must identify ways to add immediate value to the church, improve the church’s spiritual depth, attendance, and finances.
5. Negotiate Success
Identify the key leaders (both lay and staff) within the church and engage in a series of critical conversations about Highland Park’s situation, our style, our resources, immediate and long-term expectations, and overall development.
6. Achieve Alignment
Part of serving as a leader involves being an “organizational architect.” We currently lack purpose, clarity of our mission, action plans, and goals. This will involve a process of an eventual time of vision-casting. In order to develop the vision, much prayer, biblical study, analysis of churches in similar situations, laying the groundwork, seeking input and buy-in from the entire congregation, and having clarity of vision from the Lord are all a part of the process.
7. Build My Team
Team-building requires both systematic and strategic thinking. It is important the team be built quickly. I am looking to fill several positions: Worship Pastor, Missions Coordinator, Student Pastor, and a Pastoral Intern.
8. Create Coalitions
Much of my success will depend on my ability to influence people outside of my direct line of control. I must quickly identify those whose support is essential for success and cultivate relationships with them.
9. Keep My Balance
As a transition can be taxing, I must work hard to maintain my equilibrium and preserve my ability to make good judgments. It can become easy to lose perspective, become isolated, and quickly make bad calls. A major part of this is to maintain contact with mentors and advisors inside and outside the church.
10. Expedite Everyone
The more quickly the staff, deacons, and other key leaders come up to speed with what I need and want from them in their respective roles, the more it will help the church’s performance as a well-run organization for God’s glory.