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Pastoral Search Process Questions & Answers (2/2019)

When Pastor Craig Goodwin left (mid-May 2018), we heard that Presbyterian churches undergo a year-long process of examination and discernment before a new pastor is typically in place. What work has occurred to move us forward and what is next?

When a church is between installed pastors, it creates space for the congregation to become clear about who they are apart from any particular pastoral leadership. They clarify their values and priorities, evaluate their finances, assess their resources and personnel, and set a course for the future. All of this work gives the next pastor the best possible foundation for a long term pastorate. Session has been hard at work, and our recent congregational gathering on January 27 gave everyone a chance to speak into the process. We are currently receiving applications for the PNC, which we hope to elect at a congregational meeting on March 17. 

How does the pastoral search process work?   

Once elected, the PNC will create a job description based on our congregational discussions, post it, receive and evaluate applications. They narrow a large field down to 7 finalists, and do phone interviews and background checks. They narrow that group down to 3, who are each invited to interview in person and preach at another church for the committee to hear. From there, the PNC chooses one candidate to present to the congregation. At that point both the congregation and the candidate meet each other and decide if they are a good fit, and the congregation then votes on the candidate.

Does the pastoral nominating committee form its own operating standards, goals and objectives, or is there a guideline from the Presbytery?

There are guidelines from the Presbytery and the PCUSA for what work must be done to post the position and search for candidates. There is a standard document called a Ministry Information Form that every church fills out, answering questions about the church and what strengths and skills they are looking for in a new pastor. Every pastoral candidate fills out a parallel Personal Information Form. Computer matches are generated to launch the process, self-referrals will also come in, and the PNC can pursue candidates even if they are not currently searching for a job.

What responsibility and expectations does the pastoral nominating committee have in communicating its work to the broader congregation?

The PNC works in strict confidentiality until they are ready to present a final candidate to the congregation. They will give updates about where they are in the process (i.e. posting the job, doing phone interviews, narrowing down the field) but no specifics about people. This is largely to protect the privacy of the candidates who are almost always serving elsewhere.

Is there a network of Presbyterian churches where job openings like ours can be posted so prospective pastors know that we will be hiring in the next year?

Yes. The PCUSA has a full computerized matching process in place where both churches and pastors can post their job descriptions and qualifications.

Will there be communications to all members and regular attenders so that even those who have stopped attending during the transition will know the path we’re on?

Yes. You can expect regular communication through the website and e-newsletters.