Consider the Children of the Church

Planning for the Impact of a Change in Pastors

At the time of a clergy transition, an often overlooked population group is the children of our church. The National Association of School Psychologists states that there are five major settings in which children often experience stress. One of those is new, unfamiliar or unpredictable situations. when a child’s familiar pastor is replaced by another, there is a period of time that needs to be handled with sensitivity and reassurance.

Be aware that if a pastor has been in one location for several years, it is likely that this person is the only pastor many children ever remember having. While the extent of their relationship with the children of a given congregation will vary from pastor to pastor, don’t underestimate the significance of even a vague familiarity with “that person in the robe.”

What can we do to help?

  • Talk about the fact that another pastor will be coming, not the same person, but someone else they will learn about and get to know.
  • Help them remember times that other people they know moved away for particular reasons this didn’t mean that they didn’t still care about them.
  • Pastors, parents, Sunday school teachers, etc. should create opportunities to simply listen (and answer questions when asked) about how children are describing the change and their feelings about this.
  • It’s OK for adults to share their feelings with children, i.e., “Yes, I’m also sad that Pastor Helen is leaving, and I will miss her, and I’m certainly glad we will have a new pastor coming.”
  • Help children to have a role in farewell celebrations for the departing pastor. Encourage children to make remembrances, pose for photos, etc., for them to give to the departing pastors.
  • Help them look forward to the new pastor by asking such things as, “What do you want to know about our new pastor when s/he gets here?” and “What would you like to tell our new pastor about yourself? About our church?”
  • Create an intentional plan for how children will be introduced to the new pastor.
  • If the pastor leads a “Children’s Time” during worship, have a familiar adult also be present for two or three Sundays, helping to introduce the new pastor to the children.

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Created by Gail F Grossman. May be reproduced in small quantities for local church use only, without further permission.