Pastor search process has changed with times
Sep 4, 2014
By NICOLE KALIL
Florida Baptist Witness
First Baptist Church of Titusville received 300 resumes during its recent search for a senior pastor. As intimidating as that was, the number is not all that unusual these days.
The increasing use of technology is making more potential candidates aware of openings, which is one of things that is making the high-stakes pastor-search process more challenging than ever.
Arcadia Baptist Church is currently searching for a pastor, and its search process is embracing technology in all its facets to aid it in the process.
Rick Nations, a 72-year-old interim pastor who is helping to guide Arcadia Baptist through its search, says technology is crucial. Arcadia’s search team has only accepted resumes submitted by email in an effort to weed out any technologically illiterate candidates. “If [the candidate] can’t attach a resume to an email and send it, is he really ready to lead a 21st century church?” Nations said.
The large amount of data that can come to a church during the search process can be overwhelming, and has led to a cottage industry for search firms specializing in pastor searches.
Brian Dembowczyk, executive and discipleship pastor at First Baptist Church of Tampa, says that some of these organizations can bring real value and insight to the process.
Dembowczyk and a business partner have decided to start a firm—The Waymark Group—that is designed to help churches hire new staff more effectively. The firm, which will launch this fall, is dedicated to helping churches understand how they are wired and what they really need through surveys and assessments that the church completes, providing a snapshot of the church’s core convictions.
“Scripture focuses on character, while some search committees are focusing on skills,” Dembowczyk said. “We want to see churches and candidates connect their hearts and values for longer tenures and greater church health.”
While some of these firms can be pricey and geared more for churches with larger congregations, Dembowczyk says “bringing the skill of knowing how to interpret resumes and preliminary interviews is valuable.” Dembowczyk’s goal is to have a fee structure for his firm that is scalable so that smaller congregations can take advantage of the service.
One free option is the Florida Baptist Convention’s Resume Services. This confidential, online service allows churches to submit the criteria for what they’re looking for, as well as ministers to submit their resumes and criteria. The system then matches them up based on the information each party has inputted. This service is linked with resume services in nine other state conventions, allowing churches and candidates to broaden their horizons. The Florida Baptist Convention Resume Services is made possible through Cooperative Program giving.
With a large field, getting to know the candidates can be a daunting task. But once the committee has narrowed the field down, the important task of getting to know the candidates can begin.
“You must really vet a candidate thoroughly before calling him,” said Lewis Miller, Team Strategist for Congregational Support Ministries at the Florida Baptist Convention. “Not doing so hinders the advancement of God’s Kingdom.”
Miller explained that there are many tools available to churches to help them vet their choices. Using personality inventories and assessments such as DISC and StrengthsFinder help the candidate and church understand how the prospective pastor is uniquely wired and gifted.
Background checks are also key.
At Arcadia Baptist, the committee will run a credit check and background check on the candidate and his spouse. Even his driving record is checked. Nations says these checks didn’t happen 20 years ago, but now insurance companies require them.
Miller says the practice of running background checks, which started to gain popularity in the 1980s, is simply good stewardship.
But technology is also changing the way a committee gets to know a candidate. Nations said that while it used to be that a search committee might go to see a candidate preach, seldom is that necessary these days. Committees can go online and watch a candidate preach a past worship service or a candidate might include an audio file of his preaching with his resume.
Miller says it’s important to use the tools that are out there.
“Ask the candidate if you can follow them on social media to get to know them in a more informal way,” he said.
One thing that hasn’t changed in the process is the need for prayer.
“Pray, pray, pray,” said Lisa Weikle, chairwoman of the pastor search committee at First Baptist Church of Titusville. “Pray for the next pastor, for God’s will to be done, for the committee members and the church, and for wisdom and clear answers about potential candidates.”
Looking for help?
If you’re a church looking for a minister or a minister looking for a church, you can access the Florida Baptist Convention’s Resume Services for free at resume.sbcworkspace.com
or call Lewis Miller in Congregational Support Ministries at 904-596-3072 or 800-226-8584, ext. 3072.
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