Dear St Thomas’ family,

In just over 8 weeks we will, Lord willing, be welcoming the Mantles. I wonder how you are feeling about (finally?) having a new senior minister? Excited? Nervous? Relieved?

I wonder if you have started to think about how you, or your Discipleship Group, might welcome them?

This week I was reminded of an article I read last year about preparing to welcome a new senior minister. So after rereading it and a few other blogs/articles, I thought I would share some of the thoughts I found helpful, as we prepare to welcome the Mantles.

1. Let’s open our hearts
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul encourages them to “open wide their hearts” (6:11) to him. To open our hearts is to be responsive and supportive; to be vulnerable and willing to be led. We should do the same. Let’s be ready to open wide our hearts and warmly receive Mickey’s ministry and service amongst us.

2. Let’s welcome the whole family
As you know, Mickey is married to Ellie and they have three children, Jono (7), Olivia (5) and Theo (3). It’s a big move coming from London, especially for Ellie and the kids. There will be mixed emotions as they leave behind friends and family. Are there some women who can especially care for Ellie? Are there some ways some of our children can intentionally welcome Jono, Olivia and Theo too? (We are a big family so we can’t all do everything, but we can each do our bit.)

3. Let’s be gracious 
When I started as an assistant minister, I was very nervous. It took me about 12 months before some of the nerves started to settle, (and they still return!). The senior minister role is a huge step up yet again and there will almost certainly be some nerves. There might even be a few mistakes. (It might take a few years to learn everyone’s names!) It might even take a few years before he feels really comfortable and settled. Let’s be patient and give him plenty of grace and time to settle into the role.

4. Let’s be prepared for change
Last year at our staff retreat John shared some thoughts on how we (as a staff team) can prepare for a new senior minister. He had 10 points – all worth mentioning – but point 7 really struck me: “Expect change that you don’t like, (and be prepared to back it) and expect no change where you would like to see change.” I’m sure there are things that each of us would like to change at church, but let’s be prepared for those things not to be addressed and for things we think are fine to be changed.

5. Let’s encourage (not compare)
We’ve been blessed with some exceptional leaders in recent years. That has been God’s kindness to St Thomas’. But no senior minister is the same. John is not Simon, Simon is not John. Mickey will be different again. He has a different set of gifts and experiences, all given to him by God. Let’s not compare one with the other, but be grateful to God and rejoice in how He is preparing Mickey. Remember Paul’s words to Timothy when he was stepping in for Paul in Ephesus (i.e. filling huge shoes): “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” Let’s not compare, rather let’s encourage him as we see his progress.

Your brother in Christ,
Luke Shooter

PS I’ve just started reading Christopher Ash’s book called “The Book Your Pastor Wishes You Would Read” and can definitely recommend it. It’s really short, only 120 pages, and will be a great practical way to prepare well.