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Pastor installation services a growing trendcomment (0)

February 14, 2008

By Carrie Brown McWhorter

Welcoming a new pastor often centers on fellowship activities to help him and his family meet members of the congregation, but many Alabama Baptist churches are adding worship to their welcome with a pastor installation service.

“Generations ago, a so-called ‘pounding for the new pastor’ was often the way a new minister was welcomed,” said Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM). “Church members would bring food from their gardens and pantries and shower the pastor’s family with their very best to demonstrate a warm welcome. However, during the last 25 years or so, there has been a growing trend in Baptist life toward churches welcoming their new pastors with an installation-type worship service.”

Lance first became familiar with the practice when he was called as pastor of First Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, in Tuscaloosa Baptist Association in 1983. In recent years, churches across the state — including Beatrice Baptist Church in Pine Barren Baptist Association; South Park Baptist Church, Birmingham, in Birmingham Baptist Association; Pine Grove Baptist Church, Heflin, in Cleburne Baptist Association; and James Memorial Baptist Church, Gadsden, in Etowah Baptist Association — have welcomed new pastors with installation services.

Celebrating a ‘call’
“In such a service, the pastor and congregation celebrate what the Lord has done in bringing them together,” said Dale Huff, director of the office of LeaderCare and church administration for the SBOM. “It is a worship service which describes the relationship as a ‘call’ rather than a ‘hiring.’ It is God’s divine plan being recognized.”

An installation service also provides an opportunity for the pastor and the congregation to clearly communicate expectations of each other and to commit to working together to meet those expectations, he said.
Though examples of pastor installation services are available from churches across the state, there is no right or wrong order of worship for such a service, said Mike McLemore, executive director for Birmingham Association.

He said the service should include a time for praise and prayer, as well as for the reading of Scripture passages that address the church body and the role of the pastor. McLemore also suggested a time for individual members of the congregation to offer words of affirmation and encouragement to the pastor and his wife during the service.

Another significant element of the service is the challenge or charge issued to the pastor and congregation, often by someone outside the church, such as a director of missions or former pastor.
“Including someone outside the church can help clarify the relationship [between pastor and congregation] and encourage cooperation,” Huff said. “It may also provide an opportunity for significant persons in the pastor’s life to participate — former pastors, friends — and help the church have an awareness of the pastor’s life and journey.”

First Baptist Church, Birmingham, in Birmingham Association held its first pastor installation service in 2003. It was a good experience for the church family, said Don Campbell, minister of music and worship at First, Birmingham.

So when the church recently called Stan Lewis as senior pastor, the pastor search committee immediately began planning an installation service, inviting state and local Baptist leaders, as well as individuals special to the life and ministry of Lewis and his family.

Lewis had never participated in an installation service before, but he liked the idea of a service that would affirm the office of pastor as well as the church itself. “My word to those planning the service was to make sure that Christ is lifted up,” Lewis said. “This is not a celebration of a man but rather a celebration of Christ and His body and how it functions in the local church.”

In keeping with tradition, the church held a reception afterwards to honor Lewis and to give church members and guests an opportunity to fellowship with each other.
“Matching names and faces is a big task for a new pastor and his wife,” Lance said. “A get-acquainted time like the installation service reception can be most beneficial.”

Because of the benefits an installation service offers for both the pastor and people of the local church, Lance believes these services will continue to grow in popularity. “An installation service offers the minister and the congregation a unique opportunity to celebrate a new chapter in ministry for them.”
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