Eight Traps That Can Derail a Career in the First 90 Days
Starting a new appointment? Coupled with the excitement of a move to a new church, there is often some anxiety. How do you start off on the right foot, and ensure the best possible outcome of ministry success? Following are eight traps that can derail a pastor in the crucial first 100 days in a new role:
- Failure to clarify expectations. While the formal job description lists expectations, there are also informal expectations that aren’t put on paper. Be sure that you know what your leadership really expects from you. Often churches are guilty of not even having a job description for a pastor, so be sure you nail down the expectations for what the church will see as success.
- Failure to understand your new District Superintendent (if you are United Methodist) or other judicatory and his (or her) style and needs. The first 100 days is the time to build a strong relationship with your new DS, Staff Parish Relations Team, Vestry, etc. What makes him excited? What irritates them? How can you best adapt to their communication and decision-making style?
- Not building credibility and trust with staff and key lay leaders. Each person is different. The first 100 days is an important time to assess your team and set strategies to engage both paid employees and volunteers.
- Being perceived as eccentric. Take time to learn the culture and fit in. Of course, you want to be YOU, your authentic self, but each church has a culture, and you do not want to be seen as an ill-fit.
- Aligning with the right players. The first 100 days gives you the opportunity to understand the informal power structure in the church. Who has insider information? Who can best help you navigate the sometimes tricky waters in a new assignment?
- Step on political landmines. Unless you are specifically expected to go after sacred cows in the church, tread wisely during your first 100 days. This is a time to observe, gather information, and understand the existing structure.
- Taking abrupt action without taking the time to learn. Give yourself enough time to observe and understand why things are the way they are.
- Failure to continue to develop. As Marshall Goldsmith’s book title says, “What got you here won’t get you there.” During your transition period, be humble enough to identify new skills, knowledge, and relationships that will help you continue to progress in your ministry.