Monday, June 11, 2012
Pastor Search Team Installment Two: Use the Process, Not People!
Having a search process to find a pastor is important. That it is clearly understood is vital. That it is designed for maximum efficiency is also necessary. But at the end of the day, a process is like duct tape or WD-40. Its a tool, and not the end product!
Unfortunately, many teams searching for a pastor become slaves to the process, or make candidates slaves to the process, or both! In the end, it matters far more than you have God's man being introduced to the congregation than that you have "checked all the boxes." But if a search team is mastered by the process rather than mastering the process themselves, they may very well check every box on their way to calling the wrong man!
In light of all this, I suggest two guiding principles for search teams in this area:
1. Understand that the purpose of the process is to find a person. It doesn't matter if you followed the process if the end result isn't the right person. Therefore, any process should include, on the front end of the search, a profile of the kind of individual you are looking for. I know of one church that received over 650 resumes at the beginning of their process. It took months before they were able to crawl out from under all of that information because they had not first developed a clear profile of the kind of man who would be the most suitable candidate. In most cases, a clearly-defined profile will narrow your search to 10 resumes--or less--by the time of the second "cut." Bottom line: You may not know WHO God is calling to your church, but you should, before beginning any process, know WHAT KIND of leader God intends to bring to you.
If search teams understand that the process is ultimately about people, they will not be so consumed with the process that they are never allowed to get to know people.
2. Spend the lion's share of attention on the person, not the process. I've often consulted with churches and recommended that they "fast-track" the parts of the process that lead them to the right people, not so their work will be done sooner, but so they can spend most of their time getting to know a candidate.
In fact, I'd say that for most churches, it is possible to be interviewing your #1 candidate 90 days from the start of your process! But once that individual is in front of you, you probably need to slam on the brakes and take at least 120 days to get to know him. Two benefits arise from this approach. First, the team gets all the time they need to get deep into the "underwear drawer" of a candidate. I'll talk about asking hard questions in a later post, but for now I'll say that credit and criminal background checks, while necessary, are hardly sufficient to determine if you have a morally upstanding person in front of you. Those judgement calls take time, and lots of conversation!
The second benefit of this approach is that candidates who are not being considered are told so much more quickly, and the #1 candidate doesn't feel like he is in a popularity contest, and is thus more free to be open and honest about who he is, and what God has called him to do. More time is given to prayer and thoughtful discussion, and less to informing candidates and congregants about where you are "in the process."
Too many good search team members get burned out quickly because the entire team becomes enslaved to the process. Conversely, too many good pastoral candidates have been burned because they also unwittingly became victims of a process. Use the process to get to the right person. And then, make sure you get to know that person by asking them the right questions! We will take up that subject in our next post!