The search process as journey

John Vonhof of Alban Institute discusses the search process as seven “stations” – a journey of discovery.

When your pastor announces that he or she is leaving, whether by retiring or by accepting a call to another church, your congregation embarks on a journey with many way stations. The period of ministry with your church is ending, and another ministry will begin.

After the church [acknowledges the] change in pastoral leadership with special worship services, a potluck, an open house, or other celebration or recognition the seven stations begin:

The church board must determine whether your denomination has policies about the formation of a search committee. This is the first station on the journey. 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…

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…

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, while others are added. Interviews will follow, and a select few will be invited to pay a visit to your church.

…the fifth stage of the journey [is] the decision and call.

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 arrival. 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.

The seventh stage is to manage a good start-up for the new pastor and the congregation. When the call is accepted and announced to the congregation, the search committee members will phase themselves out of the picture. They have completed their assignment. Now the board needs to take charge and manage the transition. The board, pastor, and staff work together to plan the church’s ministry. This is an exciting time. God 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…

Read it all here.

Past Posts