An interview with T. Scott Daniels
T. Scott Daniel’s new book, The First 100 Days: A Pastor’s Guide, is intended to help pastors “put good practices into place at the beginning of ministry” to build the kind of trust that can lead to fruitful ministry and initiate positive change. Grace and Peace Magazine asked Scott, who serves as senior pastor of Pasadena, CA, First Church of the Nazarene, to explain why he wrote the book, and how to get off to a positive start in a new ministry assignment.
G&P: What prompted you to write your book, and how did you approach this subject?
T. Scott Daniels: I have begun to think about how important trajectory is in ministry. One of the fascinating things about golf is how a couple of degrees on your golf swing can affect the path of the ball. Over 150 or more yards, the variance can be quite noticeable, and a bad trajectory can be difficult to overcome. Sometimes, gifted pastors get off to a bad start and never quite recover, and the trajectory of ministry is off .
I began by doing research in several ministry books, but I also looked at a few people really gifted in business management, and what they had to say about getting off to a good start in business. Certainly, the church is not a business, and it is very different, but I wanted to see what we could learn from what’s being said in the managerial world about how to get off to a good start.
G&P: How can pastors get off to a good start in a new ministry situation?
Daniels: Socrates gave very wise counsel when he said, “Know thyself.” As I have looked at my own strengths and gifts, God has placed me in contexts that were fairly broken upon my arrival. I am a bit of a Nehemiah, if you will. I am comfortable going into places that need rebuilding, and I know what it means to help people go through the healing process and move forward.
Some pastors don’t handle these types of transitions well. So, I think it’s really important to identify what are the best situations for you. A lot of the book is an encouragement to use those early days in ministry as an opportunity to listen and not speak.
In times past, we said to new pastors: you need to go into a place and have a 90-day agenda for change. Usually, the only thing that changed at the end of those 90 days was the person who came in to be the pastor.
There’s a great old story about a young Methodist minister, fresh out of seminary, who got a call to this wonderful little church in Georgia. He was anxious to make a great start and get things going. He pulled up to the church, and the first thing he noticed was a gnarled old tree blocking the side doors of the building. He thought, “I’m going to cut that tree down and show this church how ambitious I am.” What he didn’t know was that John Wesley had planted that tree on his mission to Georgia in the 1730s. So, he ended up cutting down Wesley’s historic tree and was removed as pastor, before he even got to his first Sunday. The good news was he didn’t even have to unpack his bags. The bad news was he wasn’t ministering there anymore.
I think there is a tendency for us to get really anxious to create change, and we don’t recognize that anytime we move into a new circumstance, we’re going through a new transition, the church is going through transition, and there is a need for us to navigate those transitions well. As pastors, we often like to think about change, and the changes we need to bring, when really what we are there to do is help lead a congregation through transition. The book is really about ways to help pastors do that well.
T. SCOTT DANIELS is senior pastor of Pasadena, CA, First Church of the Nazarene
Note: This is an edited transcript of a video interview with T. Scott Daniels. View the unedited segment online at www.graceandpeacemagazine.org.
Copies of The First 100 Days can be ordered online from Nazarene Publishing House at www.nph.com.