Preacher Search Suggestions 3

Please read previous suggestions: Preacher Search Suggestions 1; Preacher Search Suggestions 2.

  • Don’t promise prospective preachers much.
    • Each member of the search team should be careful not to discuss your preferences and give an indication to a preacher he’s the “top pick” when the group hasn’t reached a decision.
    • Avoid feel-good phrases without specific meaning, “We’ll take care of you when you get here.”
    • Think before you promise, “We’ll call you Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m.”
  • Do what you promise. One of the most disappointing things in my years of ministry is a failure of elders and search committees to call when they promised. Often an interview would end with the statement, “We’ll meet and discuss this. We’ll call you Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. to let you know what we decided.”

    My question, “Central time or Eastern time?” When clarified, I wrote the telephone appointment in my DayTimer™.

    As Tuesday night approached, I told my children, “I have an important call Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m. If one of your friends calls from 7:45 on, tell them, ‘Daddy has an important call coming at 8:00. I’ll call you back.’ ”

    8:00 came and went; 8:15, 8:30, 9:00. No call. My reasoning: elders usually meet on Wednesday night. That’s what they probably meant. They’ll call after services. On the way home from Bible study, the conversation with my children, “I may have an important call coming in tonight. If one of your friends calls, tell them, ‘Daddy is expecting an important call. I’ll call you back later.’ ”

    No call on Wednesday, Thursday—often never. I’d learn about their new preacher when I read an announcement in the Gospel Advocate. This happened time after time.

    This practice was so pronounced that one elder who did what he promised stands out. In 1988, I learned at Freed-Hardeman lectures the church in Amory, Mississippi, was looking for a preacher. I called one of the elders, Jimmy Vaughan, and talked with him. He told me, “Yes, we’re looking. We heard you might be available. We may want to talk with you. We’re talking with one man at a time. We’re talking with a preacher now, and it looks like we may come to an agreement. If we don’t, we want to talk with you next. We plan to decide this weekend. I’ll call you Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. and let you know, either way.”

    “Central time or Eastern time?”

    “Central time.”

    My conversation with my children, “I have an important call Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m. If one of your friends call from 7:45 on, tell them, ‘Daddy has an important call coming at 8:00. I’ll call you back.’ ”

    Tuesday night came. I was waiting. At 8:00 p.m., 7:00 CST, my phone rang in Dalton, Georgia.

    “This is Jimmy Vaughan from Amory, Mississippi.” That’s when he said he would call!

    From that day, every time I saw Jimmy Vaughan, I would address him, “There’s Jimmy Vaughan from Amory, Mississippi, the elder who tells the truth.” In notes in my Contacts list on my iPhone under Jimmy Vaughan, I have this written, “the elder who tells the truth” – 1988. In notes below Contacts information in his daughter’s entry, “Daughter of Jimmy Vaughn, Amory, Mississippi, the elder who tells the truth”.

    I’ve labored this point because in my experience, and in the experience of many preachers who’ve talked with me, this practice is common. That should not be!

    During the time of looking for a preacher isn’t time to disregard principles or Biblical morality of telling the truth and being considerate of others.

  • Keep everyone in the process informed. Considering moving is a time of stress for many people: the preacher, his wife, his children, the congregation where he’s working, if they know about his consideration, and other congregations he’s considering. If a person is no longer in consideration, let him know. If it’ll be longer to complete a particular phase than you stated, let the people involved know. If it’s been some time since you communicated to those involved and you don’t have anything to say, let them know you don’t have anything to say.

Notice Three Main Rules for the Preacher Search above in the post. Both preachers and churches should study verbal and non-verbal communication. We’re beginning to tell each other how we’ll treat each other when we get together.

What suggestions do you have for the search?


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Jerrie Barber
Disciple of Jesus, husband, grandfather, preacher, barefoot runner, ventriloquist

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