The search is preceded by a self-study for the church as a whole and for each individual to think inwardly, to reflect and to communicate their thoughts on the present state of the church, and to tell the strengths needed for the next preacher at this congregation. In my first sermons during the interim, I repeat, “One of the best ways to get a good preacher is to be a good Christian.” I plan to discuss these two topics in future newsletters:
1. Self study.
2. Preaching during the interim.
The search begins with a Search Committee of about twelve people composed of a cross section of the congregation, chosen by the elders to begin the process. They process résumés that come to the church, receive suggestions from the congregation, and actively pursue possible preachers.
The internet provides a confidential, inexpensive, and non-confrontational way for preachers to “try out.” Anyone, including the committee and other interested members of the church, can listen to sermons, find out biographical information, and observe the work of the congregation where the preacher presently serves without any travelling or upsetting the considered preacher or his congregation.
The Search Committee listens to sermons, reads résumés, and conducts a phone interview. During this time, they are selecting about four men they consider to be the best match for this congregation at this time.
The Interview Committee is composed of about twelve people, including two elders. They receive all information gathered by the Search Committee and begin to do a more in-depth investigation. This includes checking references, inviting the preachers and wives to our town, and a more lengthy interview. I was impressed the Sunday afternoon I sat with this committee as they interviewed me in a practice run before the “real preachers” came in. This group will recommend the best candidate to the elders.
The final candidate will come to Cookeville. He will preach, interview with the entire eldership, and interact with the staff and congregation. After this visit, we hope we have found the preacher that will serve this church for years to come.
The disadvantage of this process is the amount of time it takes.
The advantage of this process is the amount of time it takes. Interim ministry is not fill-in preaching until you find another preacher as fast as you can. The concept of interim ministry is that is takes time to adjust to the loss of one relationship before you can build another relationship effectively.
Another advantage is that at Collegeside, about ten percent of the people who filled out a self study participated actively in the search process. Thirty-three people were either on the Search Committee, Interview Committee, or serve as an elder.
— Jerrie Barber