My First 90 Days as Senior Pastor

Note From Dan: On March 1 of this year, my good friend Shannon Whaples assumed the leadership role of senior pastor at First Wesleyan Church in Battle Creek, Mich. Shannon and his wife, Sandy, left our team in February to start their new job. This is his first role as senior pastor so I asked Shannon to share what he learned in his first 90 days of leadership! You can follow Shannon on Twitter here


Sandy and I have thoroughly enjoyed this new Kingdom adventure as I have stepped into the role of senior pastor for the first time. Here’s what I learned in the first 90 days. (And I’m still learning!)

I learned to find my rhythm.

One of my early mistakes was with my schedule. In a desire to be accessible to my staff team, I scheduled all my meetings on Mondays and Tuesdays. Within a few weeks, I realized that this left me in a frantic pace each week, trying to finish my sermon prep and associated note guides. After a month, I changed my schedule and now spend all day on Mondays solidifying my weekend message. I finish the note guide by the end of the day on Tuesdays. All my meetings have been moved to Wednesdays and Thursdays. What a difference!

It may have taken me four to six weeks to learn this lesson, but now I am four months in with my current routine and have found a “sweet spot” for preparation, staff connection and church leadership.

I learned to build culture.

I am the cultural thermostat for First Wesleyan. I can’t delegate modeling the environment that I desire to exist. If I want our church to exuberantly worship the Lord, I must set the example. If I want them to tenaciously pursue the lost, I must set the example. If I desire for them to enjoy our journey together and not take themselves too seriously, I must set the example.

Additionally, the transition from personal practice to corporate conviction comes through reinforcement. I like to say … “Celebrate to stimulate.” Every small win should be identified and celebrated. It could include things such as celebrating a staff member going the “extra mile,” or a positive email recapping a first-time guest’s experience. It could be celebrating people getting involved on a serving team or following the Lord in baptism.

I learned that my dream is more powerful than my vision statement.

In preparing for my new role, I was particularly interested in vision creation and communication. Through wise counsel, I chose to refrain from casting vision for six to 12 months. Instead, use that time to move from the voice of an outsider to an insider through listening and learning. That proved to be a wise move for my first 90 days!

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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.