But she never had the painful conversation with him. She never told him that their chances of being together were about as likely as being struck by lightning and winning the lottery on the same day.
And so he stayed in limbo. She knew his intentions but she didn’t do anything with them. She left him always wondering about her intentions. As a result he was never sure if he was totally free to pursue others.
Why did she keep the door open? Why didn’t she just crush him with the truth of her intentions—or lack thereof? Truth be told she liked having him in her pocket. If they hadthe conversation it would change things forever. He’d move on. And she wouldn’t have him as a fall back option. So she kept him on the hook just in case her other options fell through.
Churches, sadly, do the same thing to prospective pastors.
Back in July, Thom Rainer wrote an article on five pleas from pastors to search committees. One of them got particular attention in the comments:
“Please stay in touch with me.”
In other words don’t be like the girl who keeps a good friend in her pocket just in case the other options fall through. As soon as a person is no longer considered they should be contacted via email. It’d take about 15 minutes for someone to compile all the emails of the candidates. And about 3 minutes to send a mass email to let them know they are no longer being considered.
A Personal Anecdote
About five years ago when we were moving from Missouri to Louisville a particular church was in contact with us about coming on board. They requested an audio sermon. We weren’t set up very well for recording sermons but we figured out a way to get a couple sermons recorded.
I sent the audio to the church and heard NOTHING. Of course they may not have received the sermon. But I wouldn’t know that either because they never responded to my email where I enquired as to whether or not they had received the sermon.
So my only assumption was that they must have hated the sermon, thought I was terrible and that I was a heretic. I’m exaggerating a bit, but it was incredibly discouraging.
About six months later they contacted me and I learned the truth. The search committee was smitten by another prospective pastor. They liked his sermon better and so began the process of calling him to be the pastor. They went through the whole process only to be rejected by this prospective pastor.
So, naturally, they called up their option #2. Me. They had been keeping me in their pocket just in case the other fella didn’t work out. But much to their disappointment their #2 guy had also already moved on.
I don’t believe that pastor search committees are intentionally doing this to prospective pastors. Many of them are probably new to the process of calling a pastor. And it is likely that none of them have never been a prospective pastor and so they don’t know what it is like on the other end.
We need to educate our people on how to call a prospective pastor even while we are still there. These things need to be taught because this entire process is broken and needs to be fixed. Being faithful to communicate with prospective pastors is a huge step in the right direction.
So really this is a plea to pastors. Educate your people on the process. Prepare them for your departure.