Monday, February 22, 2016

Preparing For Your Introduction

“Hi Frank, this is your new DS. I have an introduction set up for you at First Church Hogwarts next Tuesday. Please prepare a five minute talk so they can get to know you. See you there.” 

And….go! 

Often you will have very little guidance on what to prepare for your first introduction. You’ve got a very short amount of time to share with your potential congregational leadership who you are, why you are in ministry, what you can bring to them as pastor and what you expect of them as your congregation. And if its your first church, you might just be really nervous. 

Prepare a good story, with tangible visuals if you can (no power point, it’s too impersonal), that shows you in co-creative ministry with the church, doing the unique work of God. My story was about a funeral I did for a man, Jack, whom I had never met. He was in his 80’s when a neighbor found him laying on the sidewalk in a snow storm. No one in the neighborhood knew him and he had no family. Jennifer picked him off the ground and helped him inside. He didn’t want to let her in. The lights did not work because he could not see well enough nor reach high enough to change the light bulbs. The mirrors were covered with old newspaper. She ran home and got some lightbulbs and in the light, could see that the house was a disgusting mess, food was out on counters with maggots, and the man had weeping sores on his arms and legs. He said he had not gone to the hospital (literally a block away) because if they admitted him, there would be no one to feed his cat. She promised to feed his cat, and took him to the hospital. He was there was three weeks, during which time she visited him daily and rallied the neighbors to clean the house and prepare for his homecoming party. The neighbors were upset to learn that this man had been invisible in their midst for years. 

Jack became part of their families, and his lonely heart opened. They set up meal rotations and helped him restore his first car (which he'd kept in the backyard), a 1920’s Model T, and would drive him around town in it. He came to their homes for holidays and they threw him a birthday party at his favorite bar every year. Jack lived the last 10+ years of his life in fellowship and happiness before passing of natural causes at 98 years of age.

He never married and had lived alone since his parents died in the 1960’s. He had retired about 20 years before Jennifer found him in the snow, and had spent all that time alone. Those who came to love him knew that his parents had been members of the church I served as an associate and the funeral director called the church to see if we could do the graveside service, lowering Jack into a plot next to his parents. 

I met with a few of the neighbors to plan the service, and they expressed a great deal of guilt that Jack had been alone in their midst for so long. In preparing for the service, I searched the church archives looking for a trace of Jack’s parents (and by archives I mean a large closet filled with boxes and file cabinets). After hours of searching I found a large book in which the United Methodist Women had documented the passing of their members. I turned to the year and month in which Jack lost his mother and sure enough, in the most beautiful script, was her name. 

I took the book to the graveside for the service, and I acknowledged their guilt over Jack being alone. I showed them the page where his mothers name was written so lovingly in the book. I explained that while Jack had been alone for many years before they befriended him, during what was probably his loneliest moment, the passing of his mother, he was not alone. If there is one thing I know about the United Methodist Women, they make casseroles. And they surround people in need with love. 

When Jack stood on that same ground that we stood (he was buried next to his parents), he was surrounded by the women of the United Methodist Church. And they would have checked in on him and brought him meals, and been with him as long as he welcomed them. 

And I explained to the church committee just how much relief seeing that name written it that book provided (and showed them the book). Sometimes it’s the littlest things we do that provide the most comfort. And we have no idea how what we do today will impact someone years or generations down the road. 

From this introduction, they knew that I would go above and beyond to care for people and bring them comfort, members of the congregation or not. They learned that I view even the smallest tasks as ministry opportunities. They learned that I deeply value that we are on the spectrum of God’s plan, here because of what those before us have done and laying the groundwork for those still to come. 

Your introduction sets the stage for your ministry. It is, in a way, your first sermon to your new congregation and the image your leadership team will have of you and share of you before you begin. If you need assistance with your introduction or other aspects of transitioning into your first or new congregation, consider a few sessions with Whole Soul Consulting. We are here to make your journey smoother. Visit us at www.wholesoulconsulting.org 



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