Whenever a new pastor arrives at a parish, there is built-in change that just comes with the change in man. Then there are the changes that happen because the man doesn’t know all of the traditions of the congregation that he serves. There are also the deliberate changes that a pastor may attempt as well (hopefully after much patient instruction, although that is not always the case). The first type of change is unavoidable, the second is avoidable. The third type of change requires some patience, teaching, and trust between pastor and congregation.
Pastors in the LCMS carry two sets of documentation. The first is the Self Evaluation Tool or SET. This tool is a collection of the pastor’s responses to a number of theological issues, including “hot-button” issues of our day. The second document is the Personal Information Form or PIF. This form deals with more personal information regarding the pastor. Both of these forms help congregations when they choose to call a pastor.
What I am suggesting in this article is that each congregation have a document called something like “Congregational Tradition Inventory” which lists all sorts of traditions that are used at a given congregation. This form could be given to new pastors or vacancy pastors to help avoid those changes that can be avoided. This could help reduce unnecessary conflicts within a congregation as well.
The Congregational Tradition Inventory could include the more formal things (Communion Sundays, Divine Service Information, Lectionary used, stuff like you see on the LutheranLiturgy website and so forth) and also a lot of the things which are not so formal (pastor including those with birthdays in the prayer of the church, an Easter breakfast, Fall Harvest festival, Children’s Christmas Eve service, and so forth). This could include a ton of valuable information for any pastor who is going to serve in that place.
This would not have to be anything formal in Synodical respects (unlike the SET and PIF), but instead could be a congregational document to be shared alongside the Constitution and Bylaws when a call is accepted. It could also be updated easily by a Board of Elders when any tradition changes in the congregation. The point is that this is a flexible tool that could have as much/as little information from the congregation as they wish and be very helpful for both congregation and pastor.
Think of it, congregations, your new pastor doesn’t forget those traditions and cause small offenses here and there through his first years.
Think of it, pastors, you would know what is normal and customary in the congregation you serve without having to investigate too much.