Making the Transition to a New Pastorate

I was the pastor of Crossroads Baptist Church in Beggs, Oklahoma for four and a half years. The church loved us and we loved them. I genuinely expected to stay there for many years. There were no major issues, at least not that I knew of, and the church was growing and doing well. My period of contentment was interrupted by a call from a search committee. These calls had come before, but I quickly dismissed the opportunities. This one was different. The call was from my home church, FBC Okmulgee. The church was in a period of struggle and transition. Staying in Beggs was the logical decision, but the Lord has given me a passion for church revitalization and a great love for the church that raised me. As a result, my family and I transitioned churches in April of 2022. I learned some valuable principles in that process. Here are a few of my recommendations when transitioning to a new church.

  1. Don’t blame God: We have all heard a pastor say, “God told me it was time to move.” I really don’t think we mean it when we say things like that, but in reality we are letting God take the blame for our decision to move. People are hurt when we leave, and we don’t want them to blame God for their broken hearts.
  2. Ask the right questions: Asking the right questions up front can alleviate a lot of future headaches. I call the previous pastor despite my advice above, and ask his unfiltered opinion on the church, specific issues, and even members. I also ask the search committee as many or more questions than they ask me. I would encourage any pastor in transition to write out a list of questions that he wants to have answered before he starts the job.
  3. Be honest: Being honest about everything on the front end allows issues to be dealt with before they are hot in the moment. I like to tell the committee about my theological convictions, philosophy of ministry, pet-peves, how I handle cultural issues, and everything else I can think of before I accept the call.
  4. You don’t have a bag of tricks: It is tempting to try things I’ve done in the past with the expectation that they would work better in a new context. What works in one place is not guaranteed to work in another. I also keep in mind that someone was there before me and did things a certain way for a reason. The church has done fine so far before I arrived. I cannot assume they need me now.
  5. Familial expectations: My grandfather told me to always make clear that my wife and kids are not open for criticism. If they wish to criticize them, then they should be placed on the payroll first. The church is not allowed to put any duties or expectations on my family that are not on any other family in the church. My kids run down the halls just like all the other kids and my wife does not play the piano, and it’s all good with me.
  6. You can’t do everything at once: A new place presents a lot of new opportunity, and the things that need to be changed stand out clearest during this time. I keep reminding myself that not everything can be fixed during the first year and more analysis of the situation would be useful before developing a plan. Trying to do everything will result in doing nothing.
  7. Get to know the church: Every church is unique and has a history worth studying. I spent the first several months in Okmulgee studying the church’s historical documents and even reading old business meeting notes. I wanted to know what made the church what it is today. I also spent time talking with members about their personal stories. When I look at the wall of pastor’s portraits, I must remember I am only one in a long line of men who have gone before me and who will come after me.

Brayden Buss is the pastor of FBC Okmulgee and can be contacted at brayden@fbcokmulgee.org.

Similar Posts

Working with the Minister of Music to Create Powerful Worship

Worship is a vital part of any effective ministry. The relationship between pastor and minister of music is key to consistently presenting powerful sermons with music and praise that compliments and supports the pastor’s message. The pastor and minister of music need...

How to successfully follow a long-term/beloved pastor

Oh, “you have big shoes to fill” has been uttered through the vocal chords of church members for decades without a scriptural filter to stop it. Both seasoned and unseasoned pastors have been on the receiving end of the “sharp” message meant to acknowledge what was and forewarn what is.

Preaching the Gospel through all elements of the Worship Service

Seeking to ensure our worship services bring glory to the Lord and impact those gathered can feel daunting.  Though not exhaustive, here are six ways to transform our public worship experience by seizing every element for the glory of Christ: Revelation &...

The Four G’s of Peacemaking

We live in a world of conflict.  It is on the news every day, nations in conflict with other nations and neighbors living in conflict with each other.  We find conflict in or own families.  We even find conflict within our churches.  Everywhere you turn you find...

How to SERVE People

In the book Discovering Relational Wisdom by Ken Sande we are called to serve by living the Acronym SERVE  S is for SMILE. E is for explore and empathize R is for Reconcile V is for Value E is for encourage. We are called to put wind under the wings of every person we...

Rescuing the Old Testament from Children’s Ministry

We southern Baptist preachers often either avoid the Old Testament or relegate it to the kid’s ministry. As the professor of Old Testament at Your Oklahoma Baptist University, I engage with students who have an Old Testament knowledge that is severely lacking the “so...

How a Pastor CAN and CANNOT Lead the Church through the Pulpit

Through the pulpit, a pastor can lead the church by how he preaches. People will remember how we preach long after they forget what we preach.

How to Handle a Property Accident at the Church

“There’s been an explosion at the church!” Seminary prepares a pastor for many things, but no class, lecture, or seminar prepared me to handle the damage done to our church building when a compressed natural gas tank torpedoed through it, leaving over a hundred...

Three Gospel Relationships

When I was in elementary school, our classrooms were heated by a boiler. It would heat water to the point of steam which would then travel through pipes to a radiator and heat the room. This is literally an “old school” method of heating.              One day our...

The Power of Presence — Incarnational Ministry

Pastor, one of the two biggest moments in the history of the cosmos centers upon the ministry of presence. What is the incarnation if it is not the ministry of presence? Think about the promises given to us in scripture promising that “God is with us.”  Remember...