General CBF

Maximizing your first 90 days

By Craig Janney

The old adage, “It’s not how you start but how you finish” doesn’t easily apply to ministers in their first three months at a new church. In contrast, starting well gives you the opportunity to make a good first impression and to cultivate a meaningful narrative about your place in and among the community you now serve.

Here are 90 things you can do to maximize your honeymoon phase in the first 90 days:

  1. Ask the search committee why they called you.
  2. Be present and visible.
  3. Get a library card.
  4. Prepare great sermons and worship services.
  5. Visit with every leader in your church.
  6. Find your bathroom.
  7. Enlist your gatekeeper.
  8. Join a CBF Peer Learning Group.
  9. Network with ministry partners.
  10. Understand the daily operating procedures of the church office.
  11. Approach a certified clergy coach.
  12. Prioritize your schedule.
  13. Assimilate into the community.
  14. Convey your enthusiasm about this new ministry!
  15. Get settled into your office, but don’t stay there.
  16. Check off one deferred church project each month.
  17. Ask for recommendations around town (homemade Yelp).
  18. Solicit recipes for your next big family meal.
  19. Commit your pastor stump speech to memory.
  20. Invite members into your home.
  21. Register to attend CBF General Assembly.
  22. Study the church directory.
  23. Introduce yourself around town.
  24. Meet with the superintendent of schools.
  25. Balance your personal financial books.
  26. Attend civic events.
  27. Develop a follow-up strategy for visitors.
  28. Schedule a new church directory.
  29. Ask members to introduce themselves until you call them by name.
  30. Deliver on your deadlines.
  31. Have lunch or coffee with every staff member.
  32. Add birthdays and anniversaries to your calendar.
  33. Leave work early one day.
  34. Schedule time to exercise every day.
  35. Have a meal with the city manager.
  36. Date your significant other at least once a week.
  37. Take a selfie with the church before worship.
  38. Pray for each member of the congregation.
  39. Call an old friend.
  40. Write personalized thank you notes to each member of the search committee.
  41. Keep your daily devotions.
  42. Seek stories from the senior adults.
  43. Play on the playground with the children.
  44. Hang out with the youth group.
  45. Google your church.
  46. Get monthly feedback from the transition team.
  47. Convene listening sessions with the church.
  48. Tell good stories about your previous ministry.
  49. Take a short survey of the church.
  50. Assess the church’s financial health.
  51. Write down your short-term and long-term goals for the church.
  52. Cast a vision for right now (Hint: CBF’s Dawnings initiative can help).
  53. Inventory all the church’s printed and digital communication materials.
  54. Skip church one Sunday to observe the community during Sunday school and worship.
  55. Ask the police chief to take you to where the community aches.
  56. Prayer-walk the church property.
  57. Evaluate the church’s existing programs.
  58. Pray to discern God’s calling for you among the church.
  59. Listen to the complaints of the church.
  60. Write a newsletter article.
  61. Delegate minor tasks to keep you focused on the big picture.
  62. Learn the history of your church.
  63. Call the former ministers (and ask to speak with their spouse).
  64. Take notes on what you observe.
  65. Follow through on all of your commitments.
  66. Journal your accomplishments so far.
  67. Do something spontaneous.
  68. Walk the closest downtown area.
  69. Meet with the Deacons.
  70. Build a team of trusted advisors.
  71. Fix high traffic/visibility areas of the church.
  72. Give your references an update.
  73. Tell your funniest story since you moved into the community.
  74. Identify the powerbrokers and knowledge holders of the church.
  75. Write down what you didn’t know you didn’t know.
  76. Read through your favorite Gospel.
  77. Learn how things get done around the church.
  78. Pay a visit to the local historical district.
  79. Subscribe to the church, city, and schools on your social media feeds.
  80. Order altar flowers for the neighboring church on behalf of your church.
  81. Say “Thank you” a lot.
  82. Do something kind for your new neighbors.
  83. Make your church look good.
  84. Learn the work styles of your colleagues.
  85. Email ministers who have recently transitioned.
  86. In all the doing, be your true, authentic self.
  87. Be tough on problems and easy on people.
  88. Remember it takes 18 months to transition.
  89. Embrace the idea that you are never finished.
  90. Don’t try to do too much.

What else would you add to this list?

Craig Janney serves as the CBF Reference and Referral Manager. If you are a minister in transition or are searching for a new minister in your church, contact Craig at

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