Kennon L. Callahan’s A New Beginning for Pastors and Congregations

This book marks the first Kennon L. Callahan book that I have read and it certainly will not be the last. It is billed as a strategy for pastors coming to a new church or for pastors at their current church to have an effective new beginning. It is a very practical and helpful work. My only disappointment was that, despite the proposed target audience, it did seem to be weighted most heavily to pastors beginning at a new church. Thus, pastors looking for insight on how to foster a sense of new beginning with their current church will receive great benefit from this book, but not as much discussion on the practical “how-to’s” of their particular situation as the pastor beginning at a new church. Yet I would still, by all means, encourage all pastors to read this book.

Callahan writes with a relaxed but knowledgeable air. His wisdom concerning ministry is evident throughout, yet he does not approach his subject with a cheap fix-it-all mentality. He seems to know the complexities of pastoral ministry and church life in general. In terms of his writing, I grew somewhat weary of his idiosyncratic use of the word “fun” (i.e., Have fun with your preaching. Have fun with your church. Bob liked to have fun. Have fun getting to know your people.). It was a bit much at times, and, in truth, when I reached chapter eight (entitled “Have Fun”) I was a little “funned” out. But this does not in any way detract from the seriousness of his work. It is just a word of preferance for the author.

Callahan believes that the first three months of a pastor’s arrival at his new church are crucial. I found his proposed strategy for these months to be very insightful. He argues throughout that the pastor must not communicate to the church that he is primarily interested about the church. Rather, he should communicate to them that he is primarily interested in them. He proposes doing this by delaying setting up your office and by avoiding diving into committee meetings or planning meetings in the first three months. Instead, a pastor should go out and visit with his people. He should not visit them to talk about church. He should visit them to talk about them.

I found most helpful, however, Callahan’s discussion of leadership and motivation. He has some extremely insightful words on how pastors and key leaders develope a motivation gap by appealing to their people in the wrong way. This, I think, was the greatest section of the book.

Let me encourage you to read this book. Read this book even if you are not in ministry. You will learn a lot about your pastor and how he approaches ministry. Pastors, you will be blessed by this tremendously.

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