I’m not a fan of moving.
Unfortunately, my wife and I did a lot of it during the early years of our marriage. After we said, “I do,” we moved six times during our first ten years of wedded bliss. Our longest stay at any address was three years. Our shortest stay was six months.
During Move #4, we relocated from my hometown to Louisville, Kentucky. As soon as we unloaded the truck, my wife and I jumped in the car. Our mission? To find the closest Walmart. (The original iPhone was not released until a year later, so we actually had to explore!)
If you’ve ever moved to a new city or town, you know the feeling. Everything is unfamiliar. And it takes a while to get used to your surroundings, which can cause significant stress. For folks who don’t handle change well, it can be overwhelming.
New Pastor in Town
When the time comes to search for a new pastor, many churches (especially those searching for full-time positions) will select a pastor who lives outside their community. And that new pastor and his family will have to adjust to their new surroundings.
For some pastors and their families, the transition is effortless. For others, it can be challenging. New faces. New places. New schools. New doctor’s offices. New long-distance relationships. Everything is new.
Sadly, some families never fully adjust to their new surroundings, and many move on to another place of ministry within a short time.
7 Ways You Can Help
The good news is that your church can take steps to help make the transition a little easier. If your church is searching for a new pastor, consider the following seven ideas. While all may not apply to your church, many of them will. These suggestions will go a long way to making your new pastor and his family feel welcome.
Connect the Family to a Local Realtor (If Necessary)
The first step in relocation is finding a place to live. If the church does not provide a parsonage, the pastor and his family will need to secure housing as soon as possible.
The church can assist by recommending a quality local realtor to the pastor and his family. This person could be a church member, but it’s certainly not required. In fact, if multiple members are realtors, you’ll probably do the pastor a favor by recommending someone outside the church to avoid the accusation that the church is “playing favorites.”
Pay Moving Expenses
The greatest burden of moving may be the costs associated with it. If your church is in a financial position to do so, secure a professional moving company to complete the move for the new pastor and his family.
Depending on the size of the home and the distance required, this could easily add up to several thousand dollars. If the cost is too high, reserve a UHaul and reimburse any needed packing supplies.
Do the Heavy Lifting
If you choose the UHaul option, send a team of folks from your church to the pastor’s current residence to help load the truck and drive it back to your community. This allows the pastor to drive his own vehicle. Once the truck arrives at his new house, enlist as many members as possible to help unload it.
This sounds like simple advice, but I’ve known more than one pastor who had no moving help whatsoever. Don’t be that church!
As the new pastor’s family gets settled in, the last thing they’ll likely want to do is plan their meals. This is an excellent opportunity for the church to show some love and show off some of your members’ best dishes!
If the family is agreeable, schedule different church members to prepare and deliver meals for the first two or three weeks. You can use a website like MealTrain.com to have church members sign up for a day. Be sure to check if the family has any food allergies!
Provide Supplies or Gift Cards
Another way to help is to shower the family with household supplies (cleaning, toiletries, tools, etc.) or gift cards that they can use at their convenience. You can purchase gift cards to grocery stores, hardware stores, restaurants, etc.
For bonus points, provide gift cards specifically for any children in the home!
Babysit the Kids
Unpacking boxes is exhausting. It’s even more tiring when young children are in the home. If your pastor has preschoolers or elementary-age children in the house, offer to babysit the kids for a while so they can unpack in peace. Or just take a nap!
If there are teenagers in the home, offer to take them to a movie or some other activity while Mom and Dad get settled.
As a side note, recognize that some families will take you up on your offer, while others may not yet feel comfortable enough to be away from their children. Either way is fine. By simply offering to help, they will know how much you care.
Provide a List of Services
Who is the best pediatrician in town? Where is the County Clerk’s office located? Who are the best internet providers? Where do I go to get my driver’s license changed?
These are but a fraction of the questions that your new pastor’s family will be asking. Recognizing this will be the case, why not make a list of recommendations before they arrive? Do a little homework and list addresses, phone numbers, and websites of medical offices, financial institutions, government offices, utility companies, local schools, etc.
You’ll be amazed how this small act of kindness will be a tremendous blessing to your new pastor’s family!
I haven’t met many people who enjoy moving. It involves a lot of work and a lot of stress. Your church can help ease the pain of moving by using one of these ideas.
But don’t stop with one! Who says you can’t choose all these ideas to help your new pastor and his family transition to your community? Choose all that apply in your context, and your new pastor will definitely feel the love!
If you found this post helpful, check out my book The Church During the Search, which explains six commitments every church member needs to make to honor the Lord during the pastor search process.