This short booklet from 2012 is well worth reading for anyone making the transition from curate to vicar (or similar).
Its purpose is primarily to tell you what to expect, and only secondarily to tell you what to do as a consequence.
At the time of writing, Adrian Beavis was Vicar of St Luke’s, Redcliffe Gardens (London). Since 2020 he has been Vicar of Christ Church, Woking.
What should you expect, then, as you make the jump from assistant to senior minister?
(My headings, corresponding to the booklet’s chapters.)
1. It will be a huge
A ‘quantum leap’, no less. College and curacy don’t prepare you for it. Expect it to take around three years to adjust.
2. It will be lonely
Senior leadership is always lonely. This is especially the case to begin with, as it takes time to build relationships of trust, which then make it possible to be honest and open. Make sure you have a spiritual director, a prayer partner, and also a mentor, perhaps ideally someone who made the same transition just a few years previously (p. 7). You are not alone: God is with you.
3. The weight of responsibility will be heavy
People will expect you to make lots of big decisions. You will want to share this burden, ‘drawing others into shared leadership’ (p. 11). But, again, this takes time. However, remember the ‘easy yoke’ of Jesus:
By coming to Jesus, we remember that we are, even as senior ministers, only assistant leaders and under-shepherds under Christ’s leadership. He is ultimately responsible for his church (p. 12).
4. People will compare you with your predecessor
This is natural: it is ‘simply the way people let go of their former minister and begin to embrace you as their new minister’ (pp. 15-16). And it’s all pretty meaningless: you are a different person, ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ with your own set of gifts (p. 16). Beware of flatters, though: they might be pushing an agenda.
5. Finances and fabric will need your attention
You can’t ignore them any more! Make sure you understand the church’s finances and buildings. In terms of the former, ‘the key to solving most financial issues is vision’ (p. 19), which shapes the budget and motivates generosity. In terms of the latter, make sure there is ‘a dedicated group of people, who have expertise (or interest) and time, who can plan long-term … rather than simply responding to the latest crisis’ (p. 21). Remember that God is the God of abundance, and he will provide the resources that are needed for his work.
6. It will be important to steward yourself
In the midst of this quantum leap, the importance of spiritual and emotional self-care becomes even more of a priority than usual (p. 23).
It is vital to ‘carve out significant time simply to be with God’ (p. 24). Monday mornings, for example. It is also important to ‘[seek] out times and places where we can be fed spiritually’ (p. 24). And take a day off every week, not least to remind yourself that you are not indispensable!
The booklet ends on a positive note:
The quantum leap may feel at times somewhat overwhelming (as it did for me). But life, after properly landing, can be full of joy and satisfaction as we begin to fulfil our calling to faithfully lead and love the churches graciously entrusted to us by God. This is a calling that is more than worth the leap (p. 25).