How do you suggest searching for a preacher that will be blessed by and a blessing to this congregation at this time? In this post, I give experience from 1961 to the present, with five congregations in full-time work and interim churches since 2007. This is an outline of a training day for the team directly involved in the search process. As always, the wastebasket is available for any ideas that aren’t helpful.
I begin the training process with some presuppositions.
- I believe God loves His church. Jesus built it and died for it (Matthew 16:18; Acts 20:28). God is not only concerned about the church universal but each congregation individually. Several letters of the New Testament are to local groups of believers.
- Since God loves His church and wants the best for it, we should invite Him to be part of this process. Remind yourself and others that His wisdom is available to those who pray for it (James 1:5) and work for it (Proverbs 2:1-5).
- The process is as important as the product. Christians on the Search and Interview Teams, including the entire eldership, are not just doing a job but you are participating in an opportunity to grow spiritually. You can learn about God, about others, and about yourself.
- Each committee should become a group before they see the first résumé or mention the first preacher’s name. A friend used to say, “I dream of a place and a time where Christians can get together and tell the truth.” The interview and selection process should be one of those times and places.
- If one holds back, does not speak his mind, doesn’t ask important questions, doesn’t add helpful insight, or is in any way intimidated or compromised, the group and the church is deprived of group wisdom. Becoming a group will require several meetings before they “get on with the Lord’s work” of selecting a preacher. I believe learning to get along with each other, discussing how we’re going to conduct business, including how we’ll settle conflict when it arises, and getting to know each other in order to “stir up love and good works” is part of “the Lord’s work.”
- The training day is designed to begin this process. It’s only the beginning. Usually, a group goes through three stages before it is ready to function:
I include activities in the training to begin those stages. I conducted these training sessions on a Saturday.
7:30 Breakfast. We start with a light meal. Eating together begins the group process. Many things happen when we are eating to bring us together.
After breakfast, I get the group into a circle. Everyone is facing everyone else. Everyone is on the front row.
Prayer is a part of our day at many different times. We pray for wisdom. We pray for the members of the search and interview team. We pray for the elders. We pray for the next preacher. We pray for the men who will be considered who will want to come but will not be selected. We pray for this church and the body of Christ over the world.
8:00 Guidelines. I begin any group (counseling session, Bible class, Family Meeting, Stress Session in a monthly ministers’ workshop) with negotiating guidelines. Family (group) rules are usually unconscious, unspoken, but understood. That makes for difficult communication. I want the rules to be spoken, conscious, and understood. These are the boundaries that improve the possibility that “Christians can get together and tell the truth.” “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed” (Amos 3:3, NKJV)? The answer to that question is, “No!” Many discussions end in chaos or miscommunication because we didn’t talk about how we were going to talk. You can receive a free copy of the guidelines I use by subscribing to my www.newshepherdsorientation.com blog post reminders: GUIDELINES FOR A GOOD DISCUSSION: how to lead a peaceful conversation about powerful things .
8:35 Mixer, introduction. The people line up according to birthdays: January – December. They get into pairs. Each person interviews the other, preparing to introduce the partner to the group. Tell something about yourself and include something that no one knows about you until today. Each person introduces his/her partner.
8:45 What do you bring to this process? It is interesting how different people contribute to the search process. Some are good at calling, recording, leading the meetings, writing letters or emails, asking interview questions, arranging for visits to the congregation, keeping spreadsheets of where each candidate is in the process, preparing sermons on CDs or MP3s for others to hear. We learn more about that in this section of the training session.
9:15 What will you get out of this? Each person needs to examine his motives. “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). The search process is long and sometimes difficult and frustrating. Unless there is adequate motivation, the members will get discouraged. That can result in some people quitting and/or rushing the process to “get it over with” and end with less than excellent results.
9:45 Centertown Church of Christ now—10 years from now. After the break, I bring people to tables with crayons and large drawing paper. I ask each person to draw a line vertically in the middle of the page. On the left side of the paper, each person draws his or her impression of this congregation now. On the right side of the page, each person draws his or her hopes and dreams for this church ten years from now. After everyone is finished, we come back into the circle and discuss the pictures. Everyone is learning what others see now and what they want to see in the future. These ideas will help form what they want to see in the next preacher.
10:30 Book “mustard seeds”. A few weeks before, I have given everyone a book on the selection process. During this session, each person shares some ideas gained that may be helpful in selecting the next preacher for this congregation. Some suggested books for preacher search . My recommended book is The Search Committee Handbook: The Step-by-Step Guide to Hiring Your Next Minister, by Don Viar.
11:15 Search Committee, Interview Committee, Elders. This is where we discuss the job description of each committee and the elders. It is necessary to have a clear understanding of what each group is and is not to do in the process.
12:45 Chain Letter. After lunch, I read a chain letter about preachers I received by email: Preacher Chain Letter .
1:00 Preacher of your dreams—preacher of your nightmares. It’s back to the drawing board for this exercise. As before, I ask each person to draw a line down the middle of the paper. On the left side, please draw a representation of the “Preacher of Your Dreams.” If you could get the perfect preacher, what would he look like? What is the kind of preacher would you want to come to this congregation? This will certainly include something about his stand for truth but also attitudes, mannerisms, and attitudes—both in and out of the pulpit. What should be his emphasis? In what areas would you tolerate weaknesses in order to have strengths in other areas?
After everyone is finished with that, on the right side of the paper, please draw the “Preacher of Your Nightmares.” What would the opposite of the “Preacher of Your Dreams” look like?
When all are finished, we get into the circle to discuss these works of art and visualizations of our expectations of the next preacher. I allow each one to tell about their picture and their preacher.
My final question in this exercise is, “What if the preacher of your dreams is someone else’s nightmare?”. How will you work with others who have different expectations of the next preacher? That is the challenge of the selection committee—whether it is the elders during the whole process or whether a group makes recommendations to the elders for their consideration before making the decision. Will each person listen to the other and will each person express their thoughts and feelings freely to contribute to the final selection?
1:30 Barber’s Bullets for Preacher Search is a collection of my thoughts and observations as I have experienced and watched this process. I express my best judgment. As always, the wastebasket is available for anything not worth taking home.
1:45 Evaluation. A good way for me to learn is to do the best I know how and ask others to help me improve. In evaluating the training session, I ask two questions?
- What did you learn?
- How can this training be better next time?
We conclude at 2:00 with a prayer for God to bless the process and bless us to take advantage of this opportunity to grow in our faith in God, connection to each other, and improvement in our wisdom, skills, and attitude.
What suggestions do you have to prepare people for the new preacher search?