Saturday, October 09, 2004

Finding a balance, part 1

As I see it, the process favors churches heavily. Now, I'm all for meeting the needs and preferences of churches through the process-- anything else would be a sure recipe for failure and burnout, and would leave Christ's bride uncared-for. We need to make sure that churches have the pastor they need: they man who will lead them toward deeper faith and maturity in Christ, who can recognize unhealthy areas of church life and ministry and work to remedy them, who can prepare them for ministry in the long-term and to generation upon generation, and who can help the church become a better part of the larger Church and Kingdom.

That said, I think the candidacy process, as it is commonly practiced today, focuses almost exclusively on the needs of the church, ignoring or, at best, downplaying the very important needs, preferences, and calling of the candidate-pastor.

When a man sends his candidacy "package" to a church for their consideration, he provides them with a wealth of information. The information that will, eventually, get into the hands of a search committee during the consideration process includes the following: a resume (detailing education, experience, personal interests); a "Data Form" (providing details on current position, theological distinctions, ministry emphases, and other ministry-oriented information); a statement of "Ministry Vision" or "Philosophy of Ministry" (often of considerable length-- mine is 8 pages long); personal biography (including testimonies of faith and call to ministry); references (I send both personal and professional references); and samples of teaching, such as recordings of sermons or video of a class. This is the information provided BEFORE the actual interview process begins.

What similar information does a church provide the candidate-pastor? Some churches bother to complete a "Church Profile" which is similar to the Pastor's "Data Form" but with somewhat less information; many, however, don't trouble themselves with this. Some churches have a written history of the church which they will provide, but even if they have it, it is seldom up-to-date with the latest (and often most pertinent) information. Many churches have some statement of Ministry Vision, and some even have a developed Philosophy of Ministry-- however, the sad truth is that these are often just documents that were developed and never implemented, so they don't truly reflect the true vision or philosophy of that church.

Sometimes, it is as embarassingly little as the last four bulletins, a monthly newsletter or two, and maybe a church directory.

And that's just the early exchange of information. I'll write more on the rest of the process later.


Anonymous said...

I appreciate your thoughts here. Along with what you have said below, another frustration I felt was the emphasis placed on what I could "do" instead of who I am. What I can do is important, but just as or more important is my character. (Adam Tisdale)

Ed said...

Adam, your words are insightful. I was struck with this during the recent election: we too often judge our political candidates based on either (a) what they have done or (b) their position on an issue. Character and ethos seldom enter the equation.