In general, moving, relocating, transitioning, or however you want to categorize it, is known as the soon-to-be plight of most pastors in ministry. It's not a matter of if we will relocate, but when. We all get a sense of what Abraham must have felt like when the Lord told him to move his household to a land that He would show him. (Genesis 12:1-3) At least for us, we are told or share in the process of where we are moving. Supporting and staying close to pastors and their families during what can be a very stressful time is an essential work for ministerial directors.
In many ways transitioning to a new church in a new town or city means leaving behind friends, memories, congregational love, blood, sweat and tears, and many years of soul investments and people labor. Let's be real, moving is tough even when you've experienced a not so happy marriage with a church, and with spousal employment challenges and children peer relationships that will be changed, moving is very challenging. So how can ministerial directors help? What can be done to soften the blow of the inevitable transitional stress?
Participating in the process and sharing the news of moving a pastor, ideally, should try to be done face to face if possible, and it shouldn't be a total surprise for the pastor. This of course, requires intentional planning because of large geographic territories and vacancy problems. This meeting about ministry relocation could take place around worker's meeting time or personally in the home. Telephoning this news should be a last resort, and emailing this information for the first time shouldn't happen at all. Here are some practical ways of helping and supporting pastors and their families during times of ministry relocations:
- Prepare a moving kit for pastors. The kit could encompass the moving essentials that would include information about the housing market, health care, employment potentials, places to purchase food, schools info, etc.
- Prepare formal or informal information about the church DNA that includes history, challenges, strengths, attendance, finances, and leadership.
- Find out the particular likes of the pastor, spouse or children, and surprise them.
- Share a demographic study of the city or town. This will give the pastoral family a real sense of the community they will be ministering to, and it will also give them insight as to where they will choose to live.
- Encourage the head elder or hostess leader to prepare a farewell or welcome.