This past Sunday I did something for the first time in over a year. I missed a Sunday at church. I’m not really sure when I last took Sunday off, even before we took our current pastoral position last August. But I do know that it was an awkward day for me.
You might think me a little unbalanced for not having a Sunday off in over a year. One member joked that the church must pay me so much that I feel too guilty to miss a week. That was not the reason, of course, but I was very intentional about it. While I did take a few days during the week a couple of times over that year, it was very important to me to be in the building every week.
Before I tell you these reasons, let me preface them by telling you a bit about the situation. I came as the pastor of a church that was without a pastor for over a year. Also, this is my first senior pastorate, though I served as an assistant in three churches over ten years. This may not be your situation, and you may have immensely different thoughts than mine below.
These are the factors that led me to be present for my first year in a new position. They are not in order of importance, just as I think of them.
- Consistency. When a church has seen multiple speakers over the course of a year, to have consistency in the pulpit is very important. (While I did have several guest speakers, most were in the second six months.) To be able to come to church and see leadership on a consistent basis is more valuable than most folks might understand.
- Working out the bugs. When a worship team, the sound guys, the ushers and others get a new pastor thrown into the mix, it takes time to get to know each other and get used to each other. A year later, we have most things worked into a rhythm.
- Availability. Where is the first place people look for their pastor? At service on Sunday morning. The number of visits and phone calls I have received in a year are few compared to the people looking to take two minutes of my time on a Sunday morning. As relationships grow and word spreads about my approachability, I see this changing. But coming out of the gate, this is just how it seems to work.
- Consistency of feel. Another sort of consistency is the feel of the weekly service. This is really a result of Numbers 1 and 2 working together. For those familiar with the proper use of the term, this is an element of branding. This helps people have a pretty good idea of what they will get every time they come through the door.
- Commitment. If there is any question in the mind of people that I am committed, it will not be because of my attendance record.
- Leading by example. I have said a few times that if people are waiting to hear from God or to have Him move in new ways in their lives, then come to church. Scripture tells us that God’s presence is where His people are gathered in His name and lifting His praises. How much do I believe in that? Enough that I want to be in His house with His people as much as possible.
These are the most important reasons for my first year’s attendance record. Have you ever made a similar move in ministry? What were your reasons? Can you think of some other benefits from having a new pastor in the service each week for his or her first year?