Communications in the Search Process

[excerpt from The Pastoral Search Journey: A Guide to Finding Your Next Pastor]

Communicating with the Congregation

The congregation needs to know what the pastoral search team is doing--in basic terms. Not all of the details need to be shared, but they do need to know about the process of finding a pastor, that you have reviewed "x" number of profiles, have scheduled interviews, and have moved "x" number of pastors into the next stage of the process. They congregation needs to know their value in the search process.  Put an announcement or a half page insert in the bulleting/program on the Sunday after each search team meeting. If there is a church bulletin board located in a central location, put up a large sheet of poster board and cover it with copies of relevant data from your congregational survey, search team mandate, search team member list, etc. In addition, the search team chairperson, or other key person needs to keep the congregation informed with periodic status reports, best done during the announcement period in the Sunday morning worship service. Remember not to compromise confidentiality standards. A congregation that is uninformed is typically confused or unsupporting. 

Communications with Pastors

Communications is an area you need to stay on top of at all times. It takes effort to present enough information so the pastors have a clear, concise picture of who you are as a church, where you have been, where you are going, what your strengths and your weaknesses are, how your leadership functions, and what ministries you have. Present a clear and honest picture in your ad, in your correspondence, in your church information packet, in your video, in your interview, and when hosting visiting pastors as you meet with them. Decide at the onset what tone your communications will take. Do you want to come across as formal and businesslike or warm and caring?

It is important to remember that in your pastoral search process you may have contact with 50 to 100 pastors--and that in the process you will be rejecting 49 out of 50 or 99 out of 100. The manner in which you communicate with them, the quality of your search, and the respect you show them, is a key factor of which every search team needs to be aware. Your search must equally provide quality care to the pastors you favor as well as those you pass over. Each should come away from your search process with good things to say about your church. Taking a few minutes to see things from their perspective and through their eyes and ears can be a good exercise from time to time in your meetings. All your communications should indicate trust, respect, and honesty.

You need to be pro-active, taking the initiative in making phone calls, in supplying information before it is asked for, and anticipating questions before they are asked.  You need to be willing to save pastors the expense and trouble of trying to reach someone on the team. Decide up-front how you will keep the pastors informed about your search process. Plan on sending out periodic updates or making telephone calls to pastors in the top stages of the process advising them where you are in the search process and how they fit into the overall picture. Let them know why you are still interested in them.

An easily overlooked factor in communications is the pastor's spouse and children in the search process. You must consider the needs and interests of the spouse in the materials you prepare, the manner in which you present your church, and in your written and telephone communications. Include the spouse in the interview process.  Seek out information on her/his gifts and ministries. Be sensitive if she/he does not desire an active role in the ministry of the church. You may lose a qualified pastor if you do not include the spouse in the search process.