Josh Hunt, Pastor

Easter Sunday started a new chapter for Missy and me. For the first time in my life, I am a Senior Pastor. So far, I am loving it!

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Salem Baptist Church, Salem New Mexico is a small country church. I don't think Tiger Woods could hit any man-made structure from the front porch of the church. That is a bit of an exaggeration, but it is no exaggeration to say it is in the country. (See a satellite view on Google Maps here.) It is about a mile outside of Salem, NM, which is about 45 miles north of our home in Las Cruces, NM. Salem has a population of about 700. 90% speak Spanish. Salem Baptist is an English speaking church. Average Sunday School attendance at the last business meeting was 19. Update: last business meeting was 21 -- a 10% increase (I think those two are Missy and me).

My agreement with the church will allow me to be gone 1/3 of the Sundays and pretty much as needed during the week. Thus, I still plan to do some conferencing and plan to continue writing Good Questions That Have Groups Talking.

During the 9 months the church was without a pastor, they pretty much watched Andy Stanley DVDs. The plan is to do that when I am gone, as well as having other area pastors fill in.

Truthfully, I think this experience will make me a better conference speaker and a better lesson writer. I am guessing that the in-the-trenches living is going to make me speak with greater authority. I plan to lead one or more small groups and I am confident that the weekly experience in a group will make me a better lesson writer.

My plan for Salem Baptist Church

I asked two Senior pastors recently what advice they had for me in taking on the pastorate of a small country church. I got two very different responses.

Pastor #1 said: new broom sweeps clean. Make a big splash. Create some momentum. Get things going. No time like the honeymoon to make changes.

Pastor #2 said: take things slow and easy! Country churches don't like change. Get to know the people. Let them get to know you. Love them. Take it slow.

So much for seeking advice!

That said, I lean toward the second pastor's advice.

Step one: pray every day seeking God's leadership and guidance in leading Salem.

It is not ultimately about my plan for Salem Baptist; it is about God's plan.

Step two: love the people.

John Maxwell says, "People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision." I want to make in-house, personal visits with every active member of the church. Of course, some may not want a visit, but we will offer. For some it may work better to go to lunch.

Step three: develop a list of prospects

We will start with inactive members. They have quite a few of these. I plan to make some 60 second porch-visits with these. Stop by, (unannounced), introduce myself, leave a card and be on my way.

Step four: have parties and events

We are fixing up the parsonage--not so much to have a place to live as to have a place to entertain. We plan to give Friday nights to Jesus. On many Friday nights we plan to have parties and invite active members, prospects, visitors and inactive members to attend.

Step five: start new groups

Space will limit how many Sunday School style groups we can start, but we plan to start all we can. We plan to put a group or two in the parsonage. And, there is a place or two in the building we might could start a group. The worship service is at 9.30 with Sunday School afterwards. We might could start a class or two before worship at 8.00 or 8.30. If Missy and I can each start a group and get ten people each we will double the Sunday School.

We also plan to make use of home groups. I have never really understood the great debate between home groups and Sunday School style groups. I love the word, "both."

Step six: improve all we do

It is taking me some adjusting to getting used to preaching to this crowd. Preaching to large crowds is easy and leading small groups is easy. This is somewhere in between. I am learning. I am growing. My wife tells me I am getting better.

The music can be improved. Up to now, it was mostly one guitar and one singer. I am hoping to add some musicians to the mix and -- here is a novel idea -- maybe practice some.

In all we do we want to serve with excellence. We can never be perfect, but we can always get better.

Step seven: learn as we go

I don't pretend to have all the answers. I have never pastored and I have never been a member of a small country church. There is quite a bit of learning. I have read some books, and I welcome your advice, if you have any, as we enter this new chapter. I believe you learn by doing. You try stuff. We plan to experiment and dabble and discover what works and what doesn't. We plan to make lots of mistakes.

Please pray for us as we enter this new chapter.