Why ‘pounding’ the new minister is a good thing
WACO, Texas — My youth minister son, Brady, and his wife, Mary, got a “pounding” when they moved to Texas.
Ordinarily, that might alarm me.
But in the Christian context, it’s a positive thing — not a sign of an abusive congregation.
“Pounding” refers to the bygone practice — stretching at least back to the 19th century — of church members arriving at the new minister’s door with a pound of something, be it coffee, sugar, flour or honey.
“Of course, a pound wasn’t always a pound,” notes TexasReader.com, a Lone Star history and culture website. “Someone might give a ham, a bushel of corn or a jug of molasses. Then they would spend the evening visiting with the new preacher, getting to know him and his family.”
When that 650-member church hired Brady, Jim Martin — who spent 20 years as Crestview’s preacher — emailed to assure me what a thoughtful, loving group of people they are.
Martin, now vice president of Harding School of Theology in Memphis, Tenn., frequently offers tips for ministers and congregations on his blog at GodHungry.org. I asked what suggestions he might give for welcoming new ministers.
Three pieces of advice from Martin:
1. “Churches need to remember that this new minister often doesn’t know anyone in the congregation. Hospitality is so important and often more important than many longtime members who have never moved realize.
2. “Perhaps even more important is how they receive that minister’s spouse. When a married minister moves, he often has some ‘built-in’ friendships (coworkers, etc.). Many will want to spend time with him. However, a spouse can quickly feel isolated and uncertain as to where she might belong or fit in.
3. “Transition is hard. Period. Churches sometimes don’t like to hear this because they then think something must be wrong. Transitions (even the best of them) take time, patience and understanding.”
I’ve mentioned this before, but one of my favorite childhood memories concerns the time my family ran out of food. People from church showed up with carloads full of groceries. We ate like kings for weeks.
The only problem with that story: It didn’t happen the way I remembered it.
As my mother explained a few years ago, we had moved to a new town in North Carolina where Dad had accepted a preaching job. The groceries were part of a “pantry party” welcoming us to town.
While my recollection was not perfect, the church’s gesture made a lasting impression on me. Likewise, I’m certain that the Crestview congregation’s display of love from the moment Brady and Mary arrived won’t be forgotten — by them or their parents.
“Over 20 church members showed up to help us unload our things,” my oldest son told me. “It took us seven hours to load our moving truck in Oklahoma City and about 45 minutes to unload it in Waco because of all the help.
“On our first Sunday at Crestview, the elders prayed over us on stage, gave us a gift basket full of gift cards and invitations to spend time with members,” Brady added. “That night, they had a special worship and food truck activity that over 300 people showed up for as a welcome event for us.”
And yes, the congregation sent them home with a carload full of groceries.
“I was surprised because I thought, ‘These people don’t even know us; how can they show us so much love already?’” my daughter-in-law said.
“But I realized that this is exactly what the church is supposed to do: welcome everybody with open arms even before you get to know them well.
“Their welcome,” Mary added, “has made us want to bless others and welcome them just as we have been welcomed.”
Sometimes, a pounding is a wonderful thing.
Bobby Ross Jr. is Chief Correspondent for The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected]