What to do after you make contact with a candidate
The best way to deal with a pastoral candidate is with being direct and having an abundance of information both from him, and given back to him. That means you need to supply the candidate with a lot of information about your church. Here a church history, recent events, and lots of photos help the pastor to know who you are. If you feel you do not want to “print up” so much information, open a page on some website with photos like flicker (free), and upload church photos of the people, the buildings, outings, etc.
It is good to have good candidates come to visit the church and talk with people. Probably the two best elements that pastoral candidates like is dealing with real people, and being in the information loop.
[chapter:1. What should the pastor candidate know? and When?]
From the beginning you should be honest and upfront with the people you deal with. That should be without saying, but somehow people justify twisting these principles when they feel it is to their advantage. First of all, you should never lie, but not telling everything is not necessarily a lie either.
When you “advertise” that you need a pastor, please do not make the mistake of saying you are looking for a pastor when you have one, and are only looking for an assistant. That is lying and deceiving.
The information you need to give a potential pastoral candidate are something like the following:
- What is the age of the church?
- What is the general area of the church (inter-city, country, urban, etc)?
- What is the size of the church (total, adults, children)?
- What is the church staff like? (give total number and list ministerial positions, especially assistant and youth pastors, and where those people graduated from or past ministry experience)
- Are there other retired pastors in the congregation? Are there men capable of teaching and preaching in Sunday services available in the congregation?
- How many deacons does the church typically have? How often are they replaced?
- Does the church practice open or closed communion?
- What are the general music standards of the church? Are these standards strict, or are there exceptions when members wish to sing a special etcetera?
- Does the church send their kids away to a summer camp? Which one(s)? What would be the pastoral involvement in that (preaching-teaching, carrying, working in camp, or nothing)?
- What is any special composition of the church? (a lot of elderly, university students, hispanic, black, etc)
- *What is the general economic situation of the church? (in debt, paying the bills, bankrupt, stable).
- *What is the general spiritual status of the church? (recent discipline problems, former minister problems)
- What kind of church government does the church believe in? (pastor-deacons, pastor-church board, etc)
- What associations does the church currently have? (denominational affiliations as well as fellowships)
- What Christian schools are typically recruiting the church?
- *What was the reason the former pastor left?
- *Will the former pastor continue to attend the church when the new pastor comes?
- What version of the Bible does the church recommend?
- Are other Bible versions accepted as far as members using them, and as far as used in teaching-preaching?
- *What is the church’s retirement situation for the pastor?
- *What kind of pastoral payment package does the church offer the pastor? (gasoline fund, book fund, etc)
- Is the church in any kind of building program or debt retirement program? (Are those obligations being met each month?)
- What is the average monthly or weekly income of the church over the last year?
- How are the financial affairs of the church decided?
- What are the major ministries of the church? (focus-wise as far as time, energy, interest, etc, and resource-wise as far as where church funds are spent).
- What is the Sunday School program like? (what material is used currently, how teachers are decided upon, how the adult Sunday School program is broken down, etc).
- Is the church currently considering moving their location, selling their building, buying property or another building, etc?
- Are there any non-typical preaching-teaching obligations expected of for the pastor? (preaching in a nursing home, working with teens, etc.)
(I have marked those items which maybe would be withheld until a visit from the candidate to your church with an asterick.)
Basically we are just giving the candidate a good overview of your church and church life. Anything else along these lines would be especially helpful.
[chapter:2. Being in the Information Loop.]
Let outline a suggested process cycle for the pastoral candidate.
(1) First contact, letter or phone call.
(2) Fill out the questionnaire and return it to the church.
(3) Acknowledgement of receiving the questionnaire.
(4) x weeks/days for the Pulpit Committee to review the questionnaire.
(5) Letter from the Pulpit Committee to candidate approving him to phase 2 or no thanks.
(1) Pulpit Committee prays over the application and asks any questions of the candidate that comes up.
(2) Pulpit Committee requests a visit to the church for a weekend to preach (if they approve him).
(3) Candidate comes to church, Saturday at lunch or supper with the Pulpit Committee.
(4) Meeting for interview by the Pulpit Committee of the candidate.
(5) Sunday preaches all services.
(6) Candidate writes Pulpit Committee asking them to continue the process, that he is still interested. (this letter should be written a week to a month after the visit, and after the pastor and his wife has prayed over the matter).
(1) Pulpit Committee recommends the candidate to the church in a business meeting, or writes to the candidate saying that they are no longer interested in him.
(2) a second visit to the church is arranged for the candidate to preach all day Sunday, with a meal after the AM service, and all the church members can meet and talk to the candidate.
(3) 1 week after that visit by the candidate a final vote is made by the congregation and with the recommendation of the Pulpit Committee of the candidate.
(4) Arrangements are made for the new pastor to come to the church.
In these phases there are certain points that should be made. First, the entire process should be written out on a piece of paper and given to the candidate. The candidate should always know where he is in the process, and immediately when the Pulpit Committee decides they are not interested in him, they should notify him by letter and by phone.
Phase 1 point 2 – the Questionnaire. Part of the questionnaire is that the candidate fills out a questionnaire made by the church, and the candidate should include a résumé of his own work experience in the ministry, as well as including several tapes or CDs of preaching.
When the candidate actually comes to the church, or individuals of the Pulpit Committee visit the pastoral candidate in his home or at some prearranged spot, there should be sufficient time allowed for people to get to know each other. The personal aspect of getting to know the candidate is important for making a transition into the pastorate. If he has personal problems, you want these personal problems to come out in these social encounters to validate the Pulpit Committee’s decision to not pursue him. Also please be aware that when a candidate comes to visit your church, take care of his incident expenses. Put him up in a hotel or someplace where he will be comfortable. If he wants to stay with a church family, it is preferable a deacon or someone on the Pulpit Committee.
[chapter:3. The Personal Touch, dealing with real people.]
The Pulpit Committee should have one or more of their members that make contact with the candidate. At times if there are a lot of candidates at the same time, split the candidates up between two or more members of the Pulpit Committee. The Pulpit Committee member that is contact for that candidate should have all the information on him, and should be the one responsible for handling and caring for that candidate. One of the most important first impressions you can make is friendliness with a lot of easy access and people that are warm and easy to get along with. Here you should give the candidate your phone number, email address, street address, and encourage him to call and ask if he is in doubt. The Pulpit Committee contact person should call the candidate once about every two weeks in the process even if to say people are praying about the application but nothing has been decided. Do not discourage the candidate by relating to him that PC members are arguing over something he has said.
Questions and questionable issues in the Candidates Remarks and Answers – It is probable that the candidate will say something in the questionnaire or somewhere along the line that somebody will have a doubt about it. Send him a letter or email asking for a written response. Remember, confirm the receipt of every email because they get lost easily. For every email, send him a copy via regular mail. The procedure should be to always have everything written and not explained over the phone, so that the rest of the Pulpit Committee can review what was said. If he calls to explain something the Pulpit Committee has asked him about, tell him to please shoot you a letter or email with all that written out so that the entire Pulpit Committee can read it, and whoever is making contact with him isn’t burdened with trying to remember and explain it exactly as he has told you over the phone.
Please have someone on the pulpit committee give each candidate their home and office phone numbers, and tell them to call for updates at any time. (Each member of the committee can take one or two candidates as their contacts so it doesn’t all fall on one person.) One of the most frustrating and stressful elements of this process is that the candidate does not know what is happening. So as a committee, set a time limit like 1 year, then process those that apply during that year, and make sure you tell candidates that have made contact or come that you are going to keep things open for the next 3 months, receive candidates, then decide on those. If none of them are what you want, contact each of them, and tell them that the committee has decided that they are not going to pursue them. If there are good prospects but you cannot decide, have them come to the church, preach, and then either say yes, or tell them that the pulpit committee is interested in them, but want to pray about it for some time (state the time) and during this prayer time, the church will or will not receive more candidates. This gives the candidate a good idea about where he stands with the church.
[chapter:Rejection of a Candidate]
When you have to tell a candidate “no thanks”, please be courteous. It is very important to keep him informed as to where he is in the process at all times (probably calling him every 2 weeks), and also to tell him when you are no longer interested. If you don’t keep in contact with him, and later decide to ask him, he may have already taken some other church because he thought there was no interest from you. He may have other options that he is holding off on until he hears from you, and to be fair, keep the communication channel open and flowing constantly. He should know immediately when he is no longer being considered.
Furthermore it is good form to tell him exactly why he was rejected. Perhaps that will help him in the future. It is perfectly acceptable to just say, “After much prayer we did not feel that you are God’s will for our church. Thank you for your interest and participating in our search for pastor.”
But it is much better if you tell him directly why you did not consider him. At this point, the issue should either be a disqualification on his part, confusion or turmoil within the church (which if it has nothing to do with him, please tell him that), or simply that after prayer, the pulpit committee could not get the needed majority to call him.
Another point here to remember is that when your church is considering a candidate, perhaps something he said, something that happened when he visited, or some element of his personality just didn’t sit right with you. Fine. Pray about it. If the issue is very clear and important, then mark off the candidate, otherwise go back and talk it over with him in a friendly, non-judgmental way, but try to re-establish whether it is a big issue, something you cannot live with, or whether you were mistaken. It would seem new pulpit committees will regularly “mark off” most all new candidates at first, or accept anybody. Only after experience in dealing with people will they slowly understand how to discern between people.
Also note that many pulpit committees fail miserably, and this is seen by the church taking a pastor only have the new pastor resign shortly thereafter, or enter into church strife thereafter. This means the pulpit committee didn’t do something right. Pulpit Committees should be very careful and prayerful, taking their time, but not wasting everybody’s time in the process.