A senior pastor oversees, directly or indirectly, everything that goes on in a local church. The senior pastor is generally in charge of directing the worship service, delivering sermons, counseling members and overseeing church staff. The senior pastor may also be heavily involved in the church's business decisions. Most pastors receive training on ministerial ethics and etiquette, but there are some extra principles to keep in mind if you are a young senior pastor.
The congregation is the church. The church you pastor is not just a building or a series of programs and worship services. It is the group of people who come to service on Sunday mornings to worship and fellowship together. As a young senior pastor, you are likely to have a congregation which has been around much longer than you have. As with any group of people, they may have cliques. At the very least, the congregation will have established relationships with one another. It can take a while to truly become the congregation's spiritual leader. Give them time to adjust to you. Spend time getting to know as many of your congregation members as you can, especially while you are new to the church.
Many young senior pastors make the mistake of trying to guide the congregation in a direction they aren't ready (or just don't want) to go. It's normal for a new minister to want to change things in his new pastorate, but it's important to consider the ideas and feelings of the congregation first. Give your congregation -- and especially the older members of your congregation -- the respect of truly listening to their thoughts, ideas and concerns before making changes, including changes you consider insignificant. Remember that just because you might not think it matters which side of the platform the organ or pulpit is on doesn't mean that the people sitting in the pews feel the same way.
Always treat other ministers with respect. This includes your predecessors, any associate ministers who are serving under you and ministers of other churches. If members of your congregation make disparaging remarks about another minister, redirect the conversation or suggest that they speak with the minister they are talking about. Younger pastors can learn a great deal from seasoned ministers, even if those ministers are in a subordinate position. Young senior pastors who make it a point to honor other ministers will usually find themselves well-respected in return.
As a senior pastor, you will find that people in your community quickly associate you with the church you are leading. You will inevitably run into people who know who you are when you are in the community. It's important to remember that being a senior pastor is a 24-hour-a-day position. You represent your church at all times. The "fish bowl" effect is something every pastor must learn to live with. If you are married or have children, it's especially important to prepare them for the fact that people will watch them closely at times. The image you present to your community reflects on your church. It's important for any pastor to project a clean, positive, kind and loving image. It's especially important for younger senior pastors who are striving to earn the community's respect while they serve in a capacity most often handled by more experienced ministers.
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