1. You are awesome, seriously this is a lot of work, much group prayer and more! Here are some things I’ve learned from “my” perspective as a candidate that might help you know the process
a. this is not a corporate job–its more like dating, the interest needs to be mutual. Although you (the church) do take the more “traditionally male” role in doing the asking, you get to indicate to the pastor when you want to first speak person-to-person.
b. There are three kinds of referrals on the clc.pcusa.org website. the NUMBERS only are SELF-REFERRALS straight from the pastor, indicating interest. The EP numbers are referrals made by an EP (probably yours altho possibly the pastor’s). The other numbers, cs or crs are computer generated matches (which are definitely valid but are without a human hand).
c. When you email/call or do any kind of contact kindly include your MIF #. Getting an Email from Springfield PNC and not knowing what state Springfield is in, makes it difficult for me to indicate my interest.
d. Pastors do NOT get updates (by email or otherwise) if they have been matched to a church. (Actually what you have to do is filter through ALL the churches that have ever matched you and try to find you). This means the pastor might have missed you on their “matches.” Its not that the pastor is uncaring, its just that the pastor gets many matches from churches who will never call or indicate interest, plus a working pastor is probably busy taking care of his/her own ministry, so again, include your MIF number and expect that the pastor will have to remind themselves who you are before he/she proceeds.
e. PNC defines the process. As you know you spend a lot of time deciding what the next step is in the process, try to keep the candidates informed as to where you are and what the next step is, and (approximately) when that step will be taken. (also, unanimous decisions might be trickier than you think and we believe in consensus and embrace differences, so do the best you can and think twice about requiring unanimous decisions)
f. Different Churches have different technologies: The pastor only has 1 video sermon? Probably that was really hard to finagle. Do not assume that the church’s technological knowledge is the same as the pastor. Maybe the pastor wants taped sermons or video streams but the church just can’t get it together. Be open minded about how sermons come your way.
g. Similarly most churches don’t know their pastor is looking: It may be as simple as the pastor isn’t ready to tell them or some other complicated reason. Getting congregational references might not be possible if the pastor is doing a closed search (i.e. their current church doesn’t know). Professional, Peer and Educational references tend to be what you get. Usually you get SIX references while the church only gives two. These refs are prob enough to give you an idea of how the pastor works.
h. The Pastor is juggling a lot. You may be calling when a congregation member died, the pastor may be waiting to hear back from a neutral pulpit, or perhaps he/she has been out sick. Chances are if the pastor is asking for a little time its because they are taking care of their current call (yay! You want a pastor who is maintaining a good working relationship with their current call). Ask twice if you need to and remember that you and the pastor are working in different time-space-realities. i.e. its like you are in 2 different dimensions. Try not to feel blown off if the pastor gets bogged down, maybe that’s just a hint from God about how the process is going and it probably isn’t personal.
i. A good indicator as to whether the interview went well is if it goes beyond the paper MIF and PIF info exchanges and starts to examine theology (i.e. where is Jesus, God, Holy Spirit at work in the church and in the pastor and do those things match)
j. Be honest. Talk about those skeletons, the rough spots, the imperfections. I fully believe that God calls pastors to churches where they can help each other in their imperfections, there is no such thing as a perfect pastor or a perfect church. There is such a thing as a loving pastor and a loving church.
k. The first visit is a conversation, and part of that conversation is showing how you will be taking care of the pastor. These and other interactions will help to “set the tone” of your relationship with one another. Try to be thoughtful if family cannot come, weekends are hard to come by (pastors are usually using their vacations to come out and see you), or if the pastor has pets for the manse, is not planning on buying a house right away or some other life piece that actually has less to do with how they are as a minister and more to do with their personal life situation. Tip: Try to leave some down time for the pastor to get out on their own, and to process and pray about the visit. Its very kind to tell the candidate how many people have reached this point and when you hope to decide.
Exceptional Ideas: Big Church with lots of energy? Consider hiring a young/fresh pastor who has lots of ideas? Fulltime Solo Pastorate? Consider hiring a woman (most women only get part time ministry jobs) Got a favorite ministry? Send the links to the candidate, Want young families? Consider a single pastor with more time or a more experienced, older pastor. Hiring an Associate Pastor? Consider hiring a competent Co–Pastor instead. God calls different people to extraordinary roles we don’t expect. Moses was shocked to be a leader, Samuel, Daniel and Joseph, all of these people were put into ministries that “weren’t usual” for the time.
Also, pray for each candidate, pray that they find God’s call wherever it is. We the pastors REALLY appreciate it!