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Digital transitions: Meet your new pastor without stalking them on Facebook

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to limit our faith communities’ ability to gather, some United Methodist churches are preparing to welcome a new pastor. Many of the people in those congregations may not be able to meet their new pastor in person for some time. While new pastors and parishioners can learn some about each other swiftly by looking over their social media accounts, consider creating a personalized video to welcome your new pastor. Likewise, ask the new pastors to create videos. The new pastors can introduce themselves and, if they wish, their families to the congregations.  Another approach would be to have pastors who are leaving introduce their successors through a brief interview.

Here are steps for creating either or both welcoming videos:

How to create the welcoming video from the congregation:

  1. Talk about the videos with the new and old pastors and make certain they agree to be recorded.
  2. Share the project with you congregation via email and, as needed, surface mail (remember that some of your people will be able to provide a video even if they do not use email). Here is suggested text for a message from the staff-parish relations committee:

    As many of you already know, [old pastor] will no longer be serving with us as of [date]. Starting [date], [new pastor] will be with us. Let’s welcome Pastor [name] to our congregation by sharing short videos introducing ourselves and our families. While you may be sad that (old pastor’s name) is leaving, these new connections will help us be effective in ministry as the body of Christ

    Due to social distancing precautions, many of us will be first meeting [new pastor] digitally. We are asking each of you create a video clip introducing yourself and your family members and sharing a little bit about each of you. Please send your video to [enter email address] or upload it to [destination] by [deadline]. [Person who will be editing videos] will compile all of the clips and create one long video for [new pastor]. We will also be asking [new pastor] to make an introductory video.

    Setting up:

    • Use your phone to record the video.
    • Place your phone on a steady surface.
    • Record horizontally.
    • Make sure the audio is clear.
    • If possible, record your family together rather than individually.
    • Upload the video to this (Dropbox link, Google drive folder) or email it to (email address]

    Keep it short, no longer than [maximum length]. [New pastor] is meeting many of us. While we want [new pastor] to learn some about us, there will be opportunities later to become better acquainted. Please keep your video to [maximum length].

    Make it personal. Consider using “props” in your video to share things your passions. Wear your favorite sport team’s jersey, Share a painting you did. Brag about your Star Wars collection. Give [pastor’s name] something specific or unique to connect to you.

    Please do participate. You do not have to be great at technology to participate. Every member of our church is important and should be represented. If you have technical issues or don’t know what to say, call/text/email [person who will be editing videos].   

  3. Ask [pastor who is leaving] to record themselves addressing the new pastor and uploading it to the Dropbox link [or Google Drive folder]. Some sharing points might be great memories with congregation, their core values and words of encouragement for the new pastor. The pastor should also have a statement that transitions from this video to the families introducing themselves such as, “It is my pleasure to introduce you to the people of [Name of church]”.
  4. Once you have all of the videos from the pastors and the church families, compile them into one video, putting the clip from the pastor who is leaving first. You can use iMovie, Video Editor, Premiere Pro or any other video editing program. We also suggest adding background music to the video. 
  5. After the video is completed, you can upload it to YouTube, Facebook, Dropbox or Google drive. This will create a link that you can easily share to the new pastor.

How to create the welcoming video from the new pastor:

  1. Consider sharing the following text with the new pastor. This should follow a conversation in which the pastor has agreed to do this.

    Welcome Pastor [name] to [name of church]! We are excited for this new chapter and the opportunity to be in ministry together. While social distancing guidelines have changed the way we gather and stay in community, we are thankful technology allows us to connect.

    In order for our church members to begin to get to know you during this transition time, we are asking you to prepare a short video introducing yourself and, if you wish, your family. Please send this video to [Person who will be editing videos] by [deadline]. Here are some tips for making the video

    Setting up:

    • Use your phone to record the video.
    • Place it on a steady surface.
    • Make sure it is recording horizontally.
    • Make sure the audio is clear.
    • If including your family, consider recording together instead of individually.
    • Upload the video to [Dropbox link, Google drive folder] or email to [repeat address].
    • Keep it within 5 minutes

    Consider sharing

    The purpose of this video is for the church members to get to know you as a person. Where did you grow up? Why are you a pastor? Do you have any hobbies or special interests? What’s your favorite sports team? Do you play any instruments? Can you speak another language? Where is your favorite place to visit? What’s your favorite meal? How do your spouse and children feel about being a part of the pastoral family? Have them share about themselves. Consider using “props” such as drinking from your favorite coffee cup, having your Wesley bobble head nearby. If you choose to share still photos (maybe of absent family members) during the video, submit them to [person who will be editing videos] along with your video. Let [person who will be editing videos] know when in the video you would like them to be included. For example, if in the video you are talking about your seminary and want to share a picture of that, ask [person who will be editing videos] to include it during that time.

    Once the video is finished, we will share it on our Facebook page, in our newsletter and to everyone in our church family. We are eager to know you better and are looking forward what God has in store for [name of church] during your ministry here. Let us know if you have any questions.

  2. Ask your pastor who is leaving to record a message that both says good-bye to the congregation and welcomes the new pastor. Suggest sharing words of farewell and encouragement to the congregation and a brief introduction of the new pastor. The pastor should end with statement to transition from this segment to the new pastor’s video such as, “It is my pleasure to introduce you to your new pastor for [Name of church]”.Ask the pastor to upload the video to your Dropbox link or Google Drive or say where to email it.
  3. Once you have the segments from both pastors, compile them into one video, making the old pastor’s video first. You can use I-Movie, Video Editor, Premiere Pro or any other video editing program. We also suggest adding background music to the video. 
  4. When the video is completed, upload it to YouTube, Facebook, Dropbox or Google drive. This will create a link that you can share with church members to allow them to meet the new pastor via social media.

At this point, your church should have two separate videos: one from the congregation to the new pastor and another from the pastors to the congregation. If your church wants to document this time, consider combining parts of the two videos into one to remember the digital transition.

Transitions are hard – even more so during these times of social isolation. Use the digital resources we have to be as welcoming as possible can be to those clergy who are making transitions.

“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Romans 12:13).

Aileen Jimenez is manager of Hispanic/Latino leader communications at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.A.  You can contact her at (615)742-5479 or at [email protected].

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