6 Tips for Your First Year in a New Ministry

Are you heading to your first church? Maybe your second? You probably feel a combination of passion and uncertainty. How you start out in your church matters greatly.

Olympic coaches and runners have taught us that how a sprinter comes out of the blocks is a significant factor in how well he or she runs the race. The same is true for a leader in a local church. If you get off on the wrong angle, or wrong foot – it may be a difficult race at best.

There is no one formula that fits every person, but there are guidelines that can help you get out of the blocks strong, swift, and sure-footed. The guidelines offered here work best based on the assumption that you have prayerfully chosen the right church. 

1. Transition from leading person to leader.

 Some young leaders I talk to consider their first church the fifth year of college – and their real education! Just saying. When you make the transition from preparation (from college or an internship or whatever it might have been) to your church, there are several adjustments to be made.

The most crucial of these adjustments is a change of mind-set from one that focuses largely on moving (growing) yourself from point A to B (graduation) to moving an entire congregation from point A to point B. It’s a huge difference. The transition is from being a leading person (one who does things well) to being a leader of persons (one who leads others to do things well.) A leading person may excel in what they do personally but has no track record in leading others to excel together. It’s a gigantic transition from being a good student to a good leader. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Just knowing you need to make the shift is half the battle!

2. Learn as much as you can as fast as you can.


Learn the history of the church. The past will give you great insight about to how to lead into the future. Spend time getting to know the leaders. Find their heart and learn what they think. Ask about the strengths and weaknesses of the church, but not like a consultant conducting a survey; ask like a parent who cares about their kids.

Still on learning, but from a different angle, I encourage you to find a mentor or two. Very specifically, find a pastor whose church attendance is just one step above yours. For example, if your church averages about 200, find a mentor who leads a church of 400. You want to learn what he knows!! Find a church as close to yours as you can. There is no secret to proximity. It’s only for practical reasons. If you need to travel a couple of hours to find one, then get your Starbucks on and start driving.

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Dan Reiland
Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together.

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