The beginning of a new pastor’s ministry at any church involves joy, high hopes, great anticipation, and not a little fear and trepidation, for both pastor and congregation. The Pastoral Installation Service is meant to capitalize on the enthusiasm of new beginnings as well as to redress anxieties.
In many ways, the Installation Service is akin to the Wedding Ceremony. Certainly, there is joy in both kinds of services, and some measure of anxiety, no doubt. What is at the root of both ceremonies, however, is that two parties make vows to each other in the sight of God and many witnesses. These are the most serious promises we can make to each other, “so help us God.” Indeed, the exchange of vows between pastor and congregation culminates the service.
Like a wedding, the Installation Service features invited guests who witness the exchange of vows. In accord with the auspiciousness of the occasion, we have invited both civic dignitaries from our community and area ministerial leaders with whom we partner in mission. They are invited not only to witness the exchange of vows, but also to celebrate our mutual interests and calling by bringing greetings and well wishes from our community and from their respective organizations.
In addition to the exchange of vows, ministers will admonish both pastor and congregation about their obligations to one another. Both the charge to the pastor and to the congregation are meant to be delivered with a Spirit-filled zeal and urgency, so that the words press mightily on the hearers’ hearts and minds for many years to come.
There will also be an Installation Sermon. While the sermon and the charges emphasize the magnitude of the stewardship that is bestowed upon the pastor and congregation in their new ministry together, they also serve to allay fear and trepidation, for the Lord promises his enabling presence: “Fear not! For I am with you always!”
The Installation Service may well be further solemnized by special music. Extended pre-service music (perhaps by a guest musician) is appropriate, as well as special processional and recessional music. A choral anthem and perhaps a vocal solo or trio, etc. may also be in order. The congregation will sing majestic hymns appropriate for the occasion.
While processionals and recessionals are not typical for most Baptist churches, they may well add to the auspiciousness of the occasion, especially if clerical regalia (robes) are requested. If the church does not have enough robes available, often a neighboring church with high church tendencies may be willing to loan some.
An important goal of the Installation Service is to bring the whole congregation together, with an eye especially for our members who have not been attending regularly. We want them to meet the new pastor and see for themselves the joy of our new beginning. The Installation Service also is a fine reason to invite extended family members and neighbors to come see what is happening in their community. While the church office should send out invitation letters to many people, all church members—each and every one of them—should do their part to reach out and invite their friends and loved ones. In the end, we hope that the Installation Service not only energizes pastor-congregation relations, but also serves as an Evangelism-Church Growth opportunity.