I received a call recently from a customer who wanted to order bookmarks for a pastor installation service and thought what a nice idea! Pastor installations are very important for churches to help new pastors feel welcome. And personalized bookmarks are beautiful keepsakes to commemorate this special day in a pastoral career.
What is a Pastor Installation?
We all know that pastors may need to leave their churches for any number of reasons – they’ve been called by God for other services such as going on ministry missions to other countries for extended times, they’re retiring from full time pastoral service or God has called them home and a new pastor must take their place.
At times, a pastor may have been asked to leave due to some conflict. This is when a pastor installation service is very crucial to the congregation and to the new pastor as sometimes a new level of trust needs to be built.
The new pastor will feel that much more appreciated and welcomed if a formal installation of a pastor service is held.
Planning a Pastor Installation Service
For whatever reason a pastor is leaving, or has left, a new pastor should be welcomed to the church with open arms by its congregation. More churches today are welcoming their new pastor by holding a pastor installation service in addition to any fellowship activities that are held to introduce the new pastor and his family to the members of the church.
In addition to meeting his new congregation, a pastor installation service allows the opportunity for the church and their new pastor to communicate what they expect of each other and their plans and commitments to work together in meeting those expectations.
These could include goals for the church, missionary support goals, or any number of things the pastor and the church would like to communicate regarding the continued ministries of the church.
What is the format of the service?
Basically the installation service doesn’t need to be lengthy and can be held on a Saturday afternoon followed by a celebratory luncheon or banquet.
In addition to the introduction of the new pastor to the church members, appropriate scriptures can be read, special music can be played and the choir and members can celebrate the installation of a pastor into their church with a special selection of hymns.
If the former or retiring pastor is in attendance yet, he can say a few words of encouragement in welcoming the new pastor. Often a deacon or assistant pastor will speak, or even a pastor from a neighboring church can be invited to the service to say a few words to welcome the new pastor into the community.
Cooperation between neighboring churches is very important to the community as a whole, and inviting the pastor and family of a neighboring church can be extremely important in helping the new pastor and his family feel welcome in the new community they’ve been charged to serve.
After the formal service, the new pastor can bring the service to close with a special prayer and members of the church can individually introduce themselves and welcome the new pastor into the church.
A pastor installation ceremony is also a way to welcome new parishioners to the church from the community. An announcement of the service can be placed in the local newspapers or even in the church bulletins of neighboring community churches so their church members can attend the service as well.
Is there a reception held after the service?
A banquet or reception should also be held after the formal service. Most churches have ample room in basement area for holding special dinners. Or if the reception is being held outside, large tents can be set up and the reception can be a little more casual.
Banquets can be catered, as long as there were RSVPs required for attending the service, or most often, a simple “pot luck” dinner is held where church members signed up ahead of time to bring certain food items.
The overall importance of the pastor installation ceremony followed by a reception, no matter how formal or casual, is not to be taken lightly. A church can easily divide and fall if a new pastor does not feel welcome.
The service is a time for fellowship and worship and thanking God for providing the church and the community with a new leader to help keep the ministry of the church going forward.
Additional resources to help with planning a pastor installation service:
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
From Pastoral Vacancy to Installation
Lutheran Social Ministry Organizations:
Planning an Installation Service
Presbytery of Milwaukee:
Handbook for Installing a Pastor