I Just Arrived to Pastor a Dying Church… Now What?
The best approach for a pastor when entering a dysfunctional, dying congregation is to simply be a pastor to those people.
So many of the mistakes and missteps a pastor makes in a church struggling and needing revitalization comes from a lack of knowledge of what to do. The absence of clear thinking on this matter causes a pastor to listen to all kinds of different voices and hastily react to what he finds and hears in his church. Some say change everything immediately. Others urge a pastor to look outside the church for new life. If a pastor does not have a solid handle of what to do and even a better idea of what not to do, he will react and make quick decisions based on the mess he finds.
A pastor needs to be trained not to be reactionary regarding the dysfunction and turmoil he finds, but to have a clear plan on how his time should be spent during his first few years regardless what problems he inherits. The best approach for a pastor when entering a dysfunctional, dying congregation is to simply be a pastor to those people. This is why pastors need to be trained in the practicalities of pastoral theology so to be equipped in the work of the ministry.
A simple definition of pastoral theology is the application of biblical theology in a pastoral manner for the purpose of caring for God’s people.
That is, pastoral theology informs a pastor of the day-to-day tasks of a pastor with the aim of ministering to God’s people. These tasks include such things as preaching, praying, visiting the sick, caring for widows, discipling others, raising up leaders, encouraging the weak, conducting weddings and funerals, to name a few.
The key to applying pastoral theology in church revitalization is centered on these two principles: The biblical tasks of a pastor for the sake of caring for the flock. The absence of biblical pastoral theology often leads to pragmatism.
The absence of intentional, wise, and creative desires to minister to God’s people and meet them where they are can create the purist.
A pastor should not place the crushing expectations on himself of transforming the church in 18 months, but should simply come with a clear vision of what his calling is as a shepherd and pastor and do that with all his might.
First and foremost, prepare to simply be patient and shepherd the souls of the people who are there when you arrive. This allows a pastor to do what he can do and allows God time to do what only he can do.