The Pastoral Search Journey - it is a Journey!

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

One might question whether there is a typical search journey. Indeed, if you have served on a search committee in the past, you may have though you were reinventing the process from scratch. Churches have been going through the search process many times over. As one church fills its pastoral vacancy, another becomes empty and they start the process. You are at a pivotal point in the life of your church. You are at an X in the road. There has been a journey to this point and a journey lies ahead. Understanding the search journey is an important first step in starting the process.

The Search Journey

The church board must determine whether your denomination has policies about the formation of a search committee. Find out specifics, so that your search process will be conducted according to church policies. This is the first station on the journey (chapter 1). The second is the board’s formation of the search committee, which now comes alongside the board and becomes active. The board focuses on caring for the congregation while the search committee makes sure that the church knows what is happening during the pastoral vacancy. Many boards wisely find an interim pastor to help manage the congregation as well as fill the pulpit. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 cover these important parts of a search process.

The third station on the journey is the point at which the committee takes steps to develop an accurate church profile. Through self-study, surveys, and discussions, committee members identify the congregation’s strengths and weaknesses, its focus and direction, and the kind of leadership it needs in a pastor. They take this information and package it in ways that will capture the attention of interested pastors. This way station on the road is the key to getting the critical information that potential candidates will want to learn about your church. This important
task cannot be rushed. It is explained in chapters 5 and 6.

The fourth section of the road is the search itself. This is usually the longest part. The word of your vacancy and search will spread. Buzz about the potential of your church will help influence those who see your website and hear about it through social-media sites and other channels. Names will be collected, letters and e-mails sent, phone calls made, references checked, and, at each step, impressions will be made. The field will ultimately narrow as some pastors drop out and others are added. Interviews will follow, and a select few will be invited to pay a visit to your church. Chapters 7, 8, and 9 cover this part of the search. Now comes the fifth stage of the journey—the decision and call. Depending on your polity, this part may involve one or several pastors. It starts with the visits by the pastor or pastors selected at this point. They present their best side, and so does the congregation. The board, search committee, staff, and members all form opinions. The visiting pastors form opinions too. Meetings are held, votes are tallied, and a decision is reached. A letter of call is issued. This fifth stop on the search journey is explained in chapters 10, 11, and 12.

The sixth station on the search journey is a fork in the road. If the call is accepted, the road goes to planning for the installation of your new pastor. This task entails working out the details of the call’s acceptance, making transition plans with the interim pastor and the new pastor, and working with the new pastor on planning for his or her family’s move. This transition in covered in chapter 13. If, however, the
call is declined, the road turns back and returns the search committee at least to the previous stage and perhaps further. The search resumes. Some may think the sixth station is the end of the journey, but there is a final destination. The seventh stage is to manage a good start-up for the pastor and the congregation. The board, pastor, and staff work together to plan the church’s ministry. This is an exciting time. God is good. He has directed the search efforts, and the hard work of the committee has paid off. Everyone’s hope is that this stage will last for years and that the church will grow under the leadership of your new pastor. This too is explained in chapter 13.

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This Web site and its related books are designed to allow individuals with little or no experience to serve effectively as members of a search team. All search team members should read through their book at least once. While it provides detailed information to the search team chairperson, it also provides all team members with an understanding of how the process is managed and why. The full search team will then understand what their task is and how they can conduct a quality search.