Maybe it’s the economic crisis that’s bringing a whole lot of stress to our jobs and making them unbearable. I don’t know, but it seems like I’m getting a lot of off-line emails about queries, frustrations, and excitement that comes with the search for a new pastorate. So, I thought I’d put some guidance out there for the committees who are calling pastors.
Be timely. I know that Pastor Nominating Committees are made up of volunteers, but I don’t know how many times I have seen committees drag their feet, going through the stack of hundreds of resumes, and it takes them so long that all of the good candidates have lost interest or found other jobs.
If you’re on a committee, you might be looking at that stack, thinking that you have so many possibilities. But, there might only be a couple of people who are right for your church. If you do take a long time on different steps of the process, make sure that you keep in close contact with the candidates whom you are serious about. No one likes to be left hanging.
Beat the bushes. In the Presbyterian Church, we have a Call Referral Service, which is kind of an on-line dating service for pastors and churches. It will generate a great deal of paper for you. And it works too. I received my last two jobs through CRS. However, often the best information comes from good, old-fashioned word of mouth. A lot of churches realize that they are really great, and they figure that all of the good candidates will be beating down their doors. But, it doesn’t always work that way. Committees will still need to work hard to find the best qualified person.
Check the stats. (PCUSA churches can find them through this link. Search for the congregation, then for congregational statistics.) I know I am going to get a hard time from my pastor colleagues on this… and please feel free to take issue on this point. I just bring it up because I’ve seen it happen too many times. A great church calls a handsome, tall, intelligent pastor who just happened to have the last three congregations implode while he was there. Or, during the eight years when he was ministering to the congregation, the attendance dropped to one-quarter of its previous size. Then, when the same thing happens to calling congregation, they are shocked.
I say this, not because those stats are completely accurate. I followed a pastor who did a bit of number finagling. Everyone kept telling me how much the attendance had increased, but the denominational stats did not tell that story. When I dug a little deeper, I realized that there was a significant difference between the actual numbers and the ones that were reported.
Also, growth does not solely depend on pastoral leadership. There are many, many factors that go into it.
But, nonetheless, the stats can be good warning signs or they can be hopeful. Of course, if there is a problem, you will want to talk to the pastor. There can be many explanations for a dramatic drop in numbers (i.e., the town’s main industry closes down or the session finally let the pastor clean the rolls).
Understand the Google generation. If you’re looking for a pastor who is under the age of thirty (or sometimes older), and you Google his or her name, you might be appalled by what you find. You may find a blog with free-flowing thoughts, complaints, and even misspelled words. You might find some pictures on Facebook of her at a social event. You might find a lot of things that you may not have wanted to see.
Is this because the pastor was immodest? No. It is just that when people are under a certain age, they have a different idea of publishing information on the web. Their lives have been chronicled there.
Maybe you don’t want to know all of this about your pastor. Maybe you want your pastor to stand up in a robe, in a high pulpit on Sunday morning, and you don’t want to know that she might have a social life, or thoughts about anything other than the 4th chapter of Matthew. You may not want to know that she is capable of typos. Should this deter you from hiring her? No.
If your church has on its information that you want to grow, or that you want to attract young families, then realize that there is a shift in accessibility. Many younger members aren’t looking for the untouchable pastor. They are more comfortable with someone who is accessible. So while this might seem scandalous to some, it can actually be a great asset.
So what would you add? What do you wish you could have told the committees who interviewed you last? What mistakes do you see them making? Feel free to comment anonymously, if you need to.
photo by eGabrielle