Hint/Help: “There is a New Sheriff in Town!?” (Starting Well in a New Ministry)

You know the scene.  The outlaw in the black hat walking down the dusty street, then out steps the guy in the white hat. He announces, “I am the new sheriff in town”, with his hand resting on the handle of his six-shooter.

It is a scene that plays in my head when I step into a new position at a new church.

Like an old western sheriff in a new town, I believe we have a six-shooter of our own.  It will either make us or break us in our new place. The six-shooter we have in our holster six changes we make in the first year.

In my experience, we get about “six shots” the first year at making significant changes.   When we are new, there is grace and flexibility. The first year is an important time to make smart, targeted changes. My suggestion is to wait to make these changes until you have been at a place for about 6 months if you can.   Take those first six months to learn the culture, history, and build relationships so when you do take those shots they are skilled and well placed.

Two Big Bullets

As you observe and ask questions in a new place, realize you get two big changes.   These are important changes that are going to be major shots.   You know in church, tradition is held tightly, even inside the youth ministry, so make sure you carefully aim for two big targets of change.

Things like:

  • asking key leader(s) to step down
  • a new ministry name or identity
  • new teaching direction or style
  • changing stated vision or mission
  • new meeting nights or times
  • canceling a major camp, trip or event
  • changing level of parent involvement

Each of these changes is taking big shots and holds some danger.  Take time to do your homework and make sure you are making the right decision. These should not happen the first month but definitely within the first year if they are going to happen.  These will set the tone for your ministry.  Like bullets in a gun, once you use these up, they are gone. It will be a while before you earn the right to make them again. Aim Well!

Four Smaller Bullets

You also have four smaller changes that you can make within the first year.  These changes are not as risky, but together can have just as much impact as one big change.   These slight redirections and improvements can happen almost immediately, without as much negativity. These changes can also be seen as having a fresh vision!

Things like:

  • changing the meeting space
  • introducing new training for leaders
  • canceling smaller event/activities
  • updating forms of communication
  • shortening or lengthening existing meeting times

While smaller and often less risky, the smaller changes you make within the first year are very important.  They need to be well thought out and planned. Remember once they are gone, they are gone.  They are however far easier to earn back and use again.

Many people step into a new role at a new place more like a gunslinger and less like a sheriff.   You have been given the authority and ammunition; use it wisely to bring order and peace, not chaos and confusion as the new sheriff in town.

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