My five-year-old is the most amazing, maddening person I know. Ironically, it’s the frustrating aspects of his personality that make possible the parts of him that bring me the most joy. He fights sleep like he thinks he’ll never wake up from it…because his never-bored mind always has plans and ideas to implement. He grabs the microphone from me during the children’s message in worship…because he has been self-conscious (that I have observed) just twice in his young life. Our house is constantly a mess…because he is interested in art and reading and martial arts and music and Legos and science and more. He has strong clothes preferences that lead to laundry meltdowns…because his beautiful mind conjures up characters that he embodies each day, and he needs certain shirts and pants for his “costumes.”
When I find myself gritting my teeth, I try to remember that occasional irritation is the price I must pay for overwhelming delight. The same is true for congregations as they consider their relationships with their ministers. For example, is there muttering that the pastor doesn’t make enough pastoral care visits? Chances are that minister is spending painstaking hours researching and writing a sermon that will help draw parishioners into God’s presence on Sunday mornings. Or is the pastor less attentive to details than some people prefer? The minister is probably focusing on big-picture discerning that will allow the church and its members to live toward God’s call more fully. Delight must live in tension with frustration; capacity coincides with complaint.
That’s why search teams must know how the church prioritizes criteria for a good pastor-parish match. With a good grasp of sought-after competencies, the search team can identify potential tensions like the ones named above. The search team is then equipped to help the congregation adjust expectations, and the minister can be set up with staff or lay help that fills in any gaps. This work up front will create clarity for all and a much more seamless entry for the incoming pastor, laying the groundwork for a long, fruitful ministry.