I am writing this post less as making a statement and more of actually asking for feedback. I graduated from SWBTS with my MDiv in 2001 and have probably gone through 20+ minister search processes in some form or fashion over the years. I have also served on a Director of Missions Search Committee as secretary and have hired staff persons myself as senior pastor and university director. For the last 8 years, I have been bi-vocational working for 2 universities and a major national non-profit. Please know I have had 2 wonderful pastorates serving incredible churches and have thoroughly enjoyed my university and nonprofit jobs. I am happy and grateful.
What confuses me is almost without fail, my church search processes have been far more frustrating, disheartening, and demoralizing than anything I have seen in secular job searches. A few examples which I am sure everyone has too many to count of their own:
- I interviewed for a staff position while at SWBTS for a mega-church in Atlanta. Church flew me and my wife in, put us up in the Marriott, we met with the staff, shown the area, and shown how I could finish my MDiv at NOTBS in Atlanta. All went well but pastor called a week later said God has not given him an answer. Not a closed door but not an open door. That was 2000 and I am still awaiting the follow up call.
- While I pastored my first church (a wonderful country church in rural South Carolina) I had a number of search committees show up in a van, fill a back pew and take notes. It put my church in an uproar with them expecting me to abandon them and leave for another church. I stayed 4 years at my first church and had a wonderful time there.
- We interviewed with another church’s pastor search committee for 2 months and they offered us to come in view of a call. We made our plans and began getting ready. Then they called back and said a couple members changed their mind because God spoke to them. Then later after they said no we received a call they reconsidered. Ultimately I said no and we moved on.
- I interviewed for 6 months with a large church for their senior pastor position and ultimately was brought to tour the church, meet the staff, look at houses in the area, etc. At the last minute, one of the search members changed their mind sensing God told her no.
- A mega-church senior pastor emailed me saying God had put me on his heart for an associate pastor position. I was between jobs and my severance had just run out. I told him all the details of being between jobs and begged him to expedite the process eliminating me ASAP if I was not the guy. Over 3 months, my wife and I went to dinner with his wife and another staff couple; I interviewed with the staff; I preached 4 services; and met with the pastor a numerous times. I was even offered another job by another organization but pastor told me to please hold out until a certain date (3 months into the process) and it would be worth my while. At the end of the 3 month process and after I begged to meet with him, pastor said he needs to hire someone who has been on a mega-church staff in this exact position. Something I had never done and was clearly known to him months before I ever was considered.
I could go on and on but few things have discouraged me in my faith than these church search processes. Not getting the position was not a big deal but the process is what hurt me and my wife. In all the examples I listed, the people I dealt with generally were kind, loving Christian people. Maybe I smelled or gave off a bad impression. Who knows. Here are a few things I would recommend (and I have applied leading my own searches) if ever given the chance to speak to those involved in a search process.
- Through much prayer and study, develop a general profile of the candidate you are seeking before you begin interacting with candidates. Ask God to help you in the organizational process so you can tell those not fitting the God-led profile no before their time is wasted and their emotions become invested.
- Establish a set day once a week the candidate will receive an update email. It may have nothing to say but at least it gives the candidate a set date/time to learn of their status. It can be sent out by an administrative assistant and can be a form email: You are still under consideration. One of 12 candidates, we are meeting again in 2 weeks, will reduce number of candidates to 6 at that point, etc.
- Communicate as much as possible via FREE video chat like Skype or Google Hangouts. Allow search committee members or senior pastors or whomever is in the process to interact with the candidate without “invading” his church and interfering with his present ministry.
- Follow the Golden Rule. Put yourself in the candidates shoes and ask how you would want to be treated. Eliminate and stop hiding behind the fake “Jesus talk” and be upfront and honest.
- Expedite and be extra sensitive with those candidates who are between jobs and/or in seminary. Be upfront, forthright and whatever you do, don’t lead them on.
There are those on SBC Voices are much smarter and wiser than me. What do you think????