I have not met anyone who loves to move. Packing boxes is not on my top-five list of things to do.
In 2012, I married an elder in The United Methodist Church. Since ordination, he’s served seven appointments in four states. When we married in 2012, my journey in itineracy began. Together, we’ve served in three appointments and moved just as many times.
As a former hospitality industry professional, my awareness of “welcome” is heightened when going to new appointments. I devoted a career to welcoming clients to the city and the property I represented and nurturing those relationships.
In West Ohio, districts provide opportunities for new clergy and churches to get acquainted while transitioning. However, some details may not be covered but could increase everyone’s chances of success.
Here are some things to consider:
This is a season of grief – In our tradition, itineracy comes with loss. My first move was to a new city, leaving behind my family, friends and career. It was hard. Here is an example of how it feels. One Sunday, you end a friendship, and the next Sunday, you begin a relationship with someone you don’t know and didn’t choose. It may take time for the spouse or family to be “all in.” Try inviting the spouse for a driving tour of the neighborhood or for lunch. I don’t suggest saying, “Call me if you need anything!” because they will not call. Be the initiator. You know more about them than they know about you.
Food always works – One experience of a move-in day was having dinner delivered with utensils. That day, a church member became a good friend. The last thing I wanted to worry about was figuring out meals. Find out the move-in day of your pastor. Be proactive and plan a few meals for the family’s first week. I love the idea of dropping off water or iced tea on move-in day. Remember, we usually move in the summer! It’s hot!
What would I do? – If your church supplies a parsonage, have the Staff Parish Relations Committee chairperson walk through with a non-committee member. During inspection ask, “If this were my home, what would I do?” Make it the home in which you would like to live. The trustees complete a checklist, but asking that one question can create a to-do list. Remember, the parsonage reflects the church.
A phone call never hurt anyone – I’ve had wonderful Staff Parish Relations Committee chairpersons – two people I will never forget. Each connected with me biweekly by phone or cards. I was invited to lunch, football games and other opportunities that provided relationship building. At my current church, a member regularly gifts our home with a fresh floral arrangement. I’ve enjoyed the flowers but also have appreciated our conversations. Receiving a call from a church member, just to see how the family is doing, shows you care. It lets you know it’s not all about the pastor.
All appointments are different, but the spirit of hospitality is universal. Giving care to a thoughtful welcome to your new clergy family can go a long way toward building lasting relationships.