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The Process

Within the first two to four weeks of a new pastorate there is a facilitated one-day retreat with pastor and lay leaders. Usually it is helpful to have the full governing board present, as well as some representatives from the search committee. Often a Saturday is a good day for the retreat. We encourage meeting off-site, even if the retreat location is the parish hall of a neighboring church.

During this retreat the pastor and lay leaders:

  • Build and develop a spiritual partnership. All too often this partnership is only about church “business”, not about the faith relationships that are so important in a church setting.
  • Get better acquainted. It’s easy to settle for only “who are you and what do you do.” This part of the retreat encourages everyone to know one another much more deeply.
  • Clarify explicit and implicit mutual expectations. Usually there are written expectations that have been produced by lay leaders for the pastor. Sometimes there are also written expectations for the lay leaders themselves. Then there are even more powerful unwritten expectations of both pastor and lay leaders. A large amount of time is spent in the retreat to identify both levels of expectations. Even if they aren’t totally accurate at the beginning, everyone is literally “on the same page” and will modify these expectations at the quarterly check-ins.
  • Set initial goals for the first year. Whether goals are already in place or not, time is spent to clarify the goals for pastor and lay leaders. We encourage adopting modest goals that can be achieved instead of perfect goals that gather dust. Once again, these goals will probably be modified at the quarterly check-ins.
  • Establish four quarterly check-in dates for monitoring these expectations and goals, and for making the necessary “course corrections.” These check-ins can be held on a Sunday afternoon, on a Saturday, or even on a weeknight beginning with supper.
  • Plan for communication with a denominational representative. The best way to do this is to invite the representative to attend one of the check-ins.

At the end of the first year plans are made to continue the routine of mutual check-ins, with or without the assistance of a Healthy Start facilitator. Hopefully a culture of mutual dialog about expectations and goals has been developed during the first year and will last for the duration of the pastorate.

Congregations with multiple staff teams engage in a parallel process for the staff team itself. Usually a longer initial retreat produces the best results.