By Renée Embree 

It is that time of year when a lot of my coffee meetings and Skype chats contain a similar question from folks asking, “How do I start right?” It comes particularly from those starting in a new ministry role. 

 The first six months at a new ministry or job can set the tone for years.  

 The first six months can be overwhelming as we try to figure it all out, including why God even has us here?!  

 The first six months can be exhilarating, but we can end up pulled in many different directions, which may or may not be the right directions. 

 The first six months is such a key time in a ministry/job where you start to understand current reality, where God is stirring, and why you might have been added to the mix. 

So how do we start right? 

As ministry colleagues and I have discussed how to make the most of the first six months (or year), here are the themes we keep coming back to: 

  1. Relationships –Focus on getting to know people and letting yourself be known. Especially build relationships with your team (whether that is a staff team, volunteer team, or deacons’ board) and key volunteers. Get to know the people in your ministry and neighbourhood – get to know names, stories, and where people are at. 
  2. Encouragement–Be a thanking machine to volunteers. Often volunteers carry a lot of extra responsibility in an interimtime between pastors/leaders and need to hear that their effort was appreciated and hear some of the stories of how their service made a lasting impact. They need to know their continued contribution of time, energy, money, talents, and ideas is appreciated and worth it. 
  3. Figure out what to celebrate –Figure out what isreally celebrated in your context, especially by the senior pastor, leadership team or deacons. Talk their language of celebration and have conversations about how your ministry area can lead to more stories of celebration. (Now, if in your assessment it seems like leaders are celebrating some of the wrong kind of things, ask lots of questions [see #6] about why that is celebrated and what it might mean to celebrate some other kinds of things.) 
  4. Communication –Figure out the communication method/style preferred byyour board, volunteers, boss, and team. Do they prefer lots of little emails, monthly verbal updates, a call with a highlight from the week, being taken out for coffee, a pop into their office, a quick text, or what?  Make sure to over-communicate in your first six months. Let them be the ones to say, “You don’t have to update us so much!” 
  5. Set a goal for year one –Makethe main goal clear for yourself and the other leaders around you in your first year. Where do you have to see movement for the sake of the mission moving forward? This is not a personal preference goal, or just changing something for the sake of change, this is somewhere that in year one you’ve got to see movement for the sake of the mission. 
  6. Ask lots of questions – You have fresh eyes and see things others have gone blind to in your church/organization. If they are used well, these fresh eyes are a gift to the church/organization. You have more permission than anyone to ask “Why do we do it this way?” Especially ask lots of questions to find out the expectations around your role. Ask lots of questions to assess the current state of the mission, the season people are in, and the way forward. Ask lots of questions and listen, listen, listen. You have a lot to learn as the newbie. 
  7. Listen for Gods leading most of all –Above all, make sure you are listening for God’s voice and word for you and those you lead in this season. Stay faithful to God and His call. I can’t emphasize this one enough. God is ourleader, our boss, the head of the Church, and the leader of our mission in neighbourhoods around the world. 

I’m pausing now, as I write this, to pray for all of you starting in a new position in this season. 

May you have God’s wisdom! May you lead us closer to the King and the Kingdom! May you lead us into our neighbourhoods to show and tell the gospel! 

Keep joining God in your neighbourhoods.