The church as candidate

Scenario 1: Your search team is interviewing a candidate by Skype. You’ve told the candidate to expect an hour-long conversation. At minute 57, you ask if the candidate has any questions for the team. The candidate looks miffed, flustered, or a combination of the two.

Scenario 2: Your search team has narrowed the pool of candidates still in consideration to two, and you’re ready to start setting up in-person conversations. One of the candidates asks about your intended timeline for the remainder of the search, because this candidate has been invited to preach to another searching congregation in the coming weeks. You are taken aback.

Scenario 3: Your search team and finance committee have agreed on a salary package for the candidate of choice. The candidate, upon seeing the package, has lots of questions and a counter-offer. You start to worry if the church and candidate will be able to agree on terms.

Your search team is listening deeply for God’s guidance throughout the process. Sometimes, though - in the midst of details and excitement and church members’ anxiety – it is easy to forget that candidates are doing their own discernment work. Candidates need space to ask their questions about the congregation and the position. (You want them to ask! Their queries can tell you a lot about their experience, perceptiveness, and interview preparation.) Candidates are likely talking with other pastor-less churches who are at various points in their searches, unless you and the candidate have agreed that you are in the negotiation phase. Candidates want to make sure that they will have the compensation they need to pay off seminary debt, live close to your congregation, and focus on ministry.

For the fit to be great, both church and candidate must explore every data point, every issue, and every gut feeling, praying that God will speak clearly through the collated information. As a search team, don’t hesitate to ask at each stage, “What questions do we need to answer and what information do we need to provide to our candidates before they even ask?” This openness will breed trust and assist discernment in both directions.