Monday, May 23, 2005

Search committees-- the stuff they're made of

Here's a question I've been asking myself lately: what is the best “make-up” of a Search Committee?

A church I am familiar with is searching for a new pastoral staff member, and they have formed a Search Committee that I have real questions about; mainly, I am concerned that the members of this committee do not adequately represent the people to whom the new pastoral staff member would minister. They have “good people” on the committee, but they are a bit too homogeneous to truly account for the whole constituency.

I know that it can be difficult to select a true representation; after all, Search Committees should only be so big. Most end up being somewhere between seven and fifteen in size-- with fifteen being only for very large churches. Is it even possible to collect a group of people to represent everyone in the congregation?

Maybe not. But a simple glance at the demographic make-up of the congregation should indicate if there are groups left unrepresented. For example, perhaps a church seeking a new solo or head pastor ought to have one member of the Search Committee who is single, simply because every church has some single people in it. Here in St. Louis, churches of my denomination may be neglecting a portion (often a significant one) of their congregation if they do not have a full-time, ministry-oriented seminary student on their committees, since the denominational seminary is a prominent part of this community.

Churches seeking other pastoral staff members-- Associate or Assistant Pastors, non-ordained folks, etc.-- should also follow this principle. A Search Committee that doesn't have a member of the youth group on it may be inadequate to find the right Youth Pastor. And it probably won't be adequate if it doesn't have a parent as a member. In short, the committee ought to have at least one member who represents every category that the pastoral staff member will work with, or at least someone who is committed to represent a certain category.

Why does this matter? Because this group-- the Search Committee-- is responsible to eliminate many candidates and recommend to the congregation the one who is best equipped and called to minister to the whole congregation, or to the whole segment of the congregation that his (or her) specialized ministry focuses on, such as youth, college, children, men, women, etc. If the whole group is not well-represented, then it is likely that the particular needs of some portion will go unattended by the ministry of the new pastor or pastoral staff.

Some churches are better able to do this through less democratic strategies than others; they can have a committee made up of a fairly narrow group of people, but that group is adequately sensitive to the needs of those different from themselves. Hopefully, all Search Committee members have enough selflessness to be thoughtful about these issues. Quite frankly, however, some churches have histories of neglecting the needs of some parts of their church community-- usually without even knowing it. When a Search Committee is formed, those neglected segments must have adequate representation for the health of the church.

1 comment:

Bobby's blog said...

Good thoughts. Good thoughts.

Thanks, Ed.