How to Develop Relationships in Your New Church

As a pastor, when you move to a new church, your strategy should include developing good relationships. You can accomplish this by doing the following:

Get to know significant leaders

Often that depends on the size of the church. If the church has 50 in worship, you will know pretty quickly who the leaders are and should plan to spend time with them. Some of the leaders are powerful people in the church because of whom they are and their personalities. Other people you will get to know quickly because of their leadership positions.

You need to get to know age-group leaders, those who teach in Sunday School and other areas. Make a list of the leaders, and then spend time with each of them.

When I had been in Euless for about 18 months, I needed to have an important meeting with the deacons to talk about the future of the church. We had 120 ordained deacons, so in 60 days I systematically visited every one of them. I told them I was grateful to be their pastor. I asked how I could help them and prayed with them. Then I called a deacon's meeting, and I was able to deal with some pretty touchy issues—but only after I'd established a relationship with them. If you don't take time to do that, then you're courting danger.

Leave your presence everywhere you go

Pastor, you need to leave your presence everywhere you go. Get professional looking business cards and distribute them liberally. I've been to hospitals, and on occasion I failed to leave a card. The family would never know I'd been there because the patient might not remember. I would leave cards everywhere. If I'd made a visit and the person wouldn't be at home, I would always leave a card in the door.

Pastor, people need to know that you are out and about, seeking to be in relationship with them.

Be available to help those in crisis

You also need to be available when your people are in crisis. When your people know you love them, they will listen to you. They will be more likely to see the vision you cast and more likely to forgive you when you make mistakes.

Show people you care for them

Pastor, find ways to let your people know you care about them, that you love them, and that you want what's best for them. It takes time to do that. Even in the lives of busy people, if you want to build good relationships, you will find the time. Meet people for breakfast or go out for coffee.

When I pastored in a little town, the town had one little café. I could just walk down Main Street, get a cup of coffee, and visit 20 to 30 people, which was about a third of my congregation. Find where the people are and go there. I went to all the football games. The young people liked it, and their parents saw me there supporting their children.

The big mistake most pastors make is that they think because their name is on the sign or the letterhead, they're the pastor. A man must earn the right to be the pastor. Relationships are important, and a pastor must be convinced of that. Otherwise you won't invest the time needed to build good relationships.

James T. Draper, Jr. served as president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1991 to 2005. Before joining the LifeWay staff, he served as pastor of Southern Baptist churches in Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. He is a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and also served as chairman of trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of more than 20 Christian books and has traveled to 33 countries, leading in evangelistic services and activities, as well as other types of conferences and meetings with missionaries and nationals.

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