7 Practical Tips for A New Pastor Following A Long-Tenured Pastor

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We are in the midst of a series here on the blog about pastoral transition. I am in the process of transitioning from pastoring Church of the Highlands in Chattanooga, TN to pastoring Brushy Creek Baptist Church in Taylors, SC (suburban Greenville).


I’m following a faithful pastor of 25 years, Dr. Ralph Carter. In my attempt to follow Dr. Carter with excellence and respect, I have asked around to more seasoned ministers for advice on what to do as I follow a long-tenured pastor who retired nine months ago.


This post is a compilation of the seven most common tips I’ve been given by older pastors. I hope this post will help you to learn with me about how to follow a long-tenured pastor.


1. Pray a lot.

A transition like this should never take place apart from the power of prayer. Get on your knees and seek the Lord’s face. This is a very sensitive season.


2. Honor your predecessor often and never criticize him.

I read William Vanderbloemen’s book, Next, and he talks a lot about this. The number one trait a younger pastor should exhibit when following a long-tenured pastor is honor.

You shouldn’t criticize anyone. You especially shouldn’t criticize your predecessor.


3. Realize you are not yet the pastor, from a relational standpoint.

Sure, the church may have voted you in as the new pastor. In title, you are the pastor. In relationships, it will take you a while to become the pastor. It may even take a long while. Realize and accept it.


4. Focus on building relationships.

Don’t just sit in your office, staring at your computer all day. Spend time with people. Have formal and informal times of building relationships with people. Your number one ministry task, particularly in your early days of following a long-tenured pastor, is to hang out with people.


5. Be yourself; don’t try to be your predecessor.

Allow me to be really transparent here. I’m not a “truck guy.” You may say, “What does that have to do with this article?” I once had a Toyota truck, in high school, and didn’t like it. I sold it and was happy to move on from it.


My predecessor drives a Toyota pickup truck. When he and I played golf together a few weeks ago, I started thinking, “I wonder if I should get a Toyota pickup truck.”


No, I shouldn’t get a Toyota truck. God gave me my own unique personality, and I’m not called to be my predecessor. I’m called to serve as an undershepherd, using my own personality to reach people for Christ.


Multiple seasoned pastors told me to be myself. I think the pickup truck issue is exactly what they were discussing.


6. Remember the tortoise and the hare.

You can accomplish less in a month than you probably think and more in a year than you’d ever realize. The same truth extrapolates to decades.


Play the long game. Grow into your leadership as the years and decade pass.


7. Accept the inevitability that you will be compared to your predecessor, and don’t be offended by it.

It is what it is. People often can’t help it. Just realize it is part of life and ministry, and have tough enough skin to realize it is natural to be compared to your predecessor.


Do you have any additional tips on following a long-tenured pastor? Let me know in the comment section below.

3 Comments on “7 Practical Tips for A New Pastor Following A Long-Tenured Pastor”

  1. Pastor Carter had a hobby of buying and trading vehicles….it seemed! LOL
    As soon as you get a truck to be like him…he will be driving an suv!
    I love #3 and #4…but the one with the most value is probably #7.

  2. Get a list of charter members and go visit each one. Sit and listen to them. Thank them for their sacrifices and faithfulness. This will go a long way to building a relationship of trust.

  3. Ask the members to wear name tags with their names on them. It will be easier for you. The members that have been there for long time are important but so are the newer members. And the staff need to learn more people by name . They smile and talk to you but they don’t know lot of people by their names either.

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