Wednesday, September 24, 2008

How much information is too much? (part two)

Coming back to the information shared by a classmate of mine: he's serving at a church that recently completed their search for a new Senior Pastor. He was able to offer me some reflections based on what he witnessed about their search team.

Probably the most valuable idea that he sent me is this: There is such a thing as too much information.

Here's a summary of what he found in a big-picture observation:
  • The candidates who received the quickest responses submitted only basic information in the first round. My friend said, "it was like they baited the hook just enough to interest the team member responsible for correspondence"-- no more, no less.
  • On the other hand, those who sent in a thick, fat packet of information didn't receive responses. There was, as my friend said, "no sense of 'teasing' or 'flirting.'" When you put it all out there, the search team isn't left with anything to wonder about.

So, what does that mean? I admit, the idea of "basic" information vs. a "fat packet" is a vague distinction. Fortunately, my friend was able to offer more insight:
  • Basic: a short inquiry, perhaps without even a Ministerial Data Form. Maybe even without a resume. But certainly no more than these.
  • "Cluttered" packets: included more than a resume and MDF, such as lengthy philosophy of ministry papers, family photos, and other "extras."

At first blush, this seems to fly directly in the face of everything that I've advocated for an information "packet." I don't think so, though: these are still important things to have available.

Here's why: as I've mentioned before, the candidacy process can be sort of like dating; this first exchange is kind of like asking for that first date. A cover letter, along with a resume, may be just the amount of information you want to offer in that first step. Let them know you're interested, and give them enough to get interested as well.

But as the relationship progresses, you'll want to give them more-- and that's when things like a brief biography or a very short statement of philosophy of ministry may be helpful. You can almost count on them asking for a recording of a sermon-- but it may not be something that they need until later in the process.

(Following the "candidacy as dating" metaphor, you might even think of sending the "fat packet" with everything you have on the first contact as being like a "one-night stand.")

Maybe this would be a good way to summarize: your cover letter, resume, data form, and other information will effectively amount to love letters to your future congregation. You don't want to overwhelm them, nor do you want to offer too little. Just enough is difficult to know for sure, but it is always what you strive for.

1 comment:

Alxsteele said...

Totally agreed! It's one of the things I've been driving home with up-coming grads. I say three sheets max: a well-crafted cover letter, a well-crafted "Skill Summary" resume, and a profile page. As much as churches own their part of the dysfunction of the placement process, as much of the time that is a response than the instigation.

Who can blame a part-time group of people (or one guy) for not responding to sixty different, 30-page packets that came, unsolicited, with no pre-phone call, yada yada?

Differentiation is definitely the key. Thanks for your continued thoughts.