A note of gratitude

When I was researching and writing Searching for the Called, I made the choice to offer the resulting materials free of charge. Because I believe in this approach to ministerial searches, I wanted to eliminate any barriers to its use, particularly in smaller congregations. I’m available for coaching if the resources alone do not provide enough guidance, but I’ve found that the comprehensiveness of Searching for the Called makes the coaching piece optional rather than necessary in many cases.

As a result, I often have no idea which churches have downloaded Searching for the Called or what judicatory or denominational bodies have recommended it to their congregations. I do know that bodies across the ecumenical spectrum have put it to good use.

An exception to this not-knowing is the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which has adopted Searching for the Called as the primary document distributed to searching churches. (This is due to encouragement from and engagement with Craig Janney, CBF’s Reference and Referral Manager, throughout the development process.) Searching for the Called was launched at CBF General Assembly two years ago. As I moved through conversation spaces at this year’s Assembly, I received several comments from laypeople along the lines of, “I wanted to meet you. Our church used your materials, and they were so helpful to us. We now have a pastor that we love!” (Were lovelier words ever spoken?) I also tagged along in workshop leadership with a senior pastor and one of her search team members whose church used Searching for the Called. On the last afternoon of Assembly, that room was full of laypeople and ministerial candidates eager for a hopeful word about the search process, and I could tell by the energy level in the room that they were getting one.

I am so grateful that Searching for the Called can be a small part of that hope. In a world quick to focus on what is lacking, on what will never be, on what divides us, my prayer is that an approach to pastoral searches rooted in hospitality can open a window into what God sees, what God wants, how God is at work connecting us with one another and with the future.

Thank you for your trust in the process. As Searching for the Called evolves, I will work hard to make sure the resources continue to be worthy of that precious gift.

Photo by Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash.

New resource: readiness checklist

When it was originally published, the Searching for the Called materials included a list of reasons your church might choose to use them. It did not include an assessment to help congregations assess whether this approach to ministerial searches is right for them. This checklist is now available.

Searching for the Called is best suited for congregations that resonate with the statements below:

There is high trust and good communication among the congregation and its leaders.

While eager to call a new minister, the congregation and its leaders are ready to take the time needed to search well.

The congregation and its leaders understand the search as a spiritual process, one in which God is at work and through which people can grow in relationship with God and one another.

The congregation and its leaders are willing to be curious about what God is up to, to wrestle with hard questions about the church’s past, present, and future, and to be open to the unexpected.

The congregation and its leaders want to encourage all candidates they encounter and bless the larger church through the search process.

The congregation and its leaders view the pastor-parish relationship as one of mutual ministry and care.

The judicatory affirms all of the above and supports the congregation in utilizing Searching for the Called.

[Note that the term “congregational leaders” includes the search team (once formed) as well as such standing decision-making bodies as deacons, elders, vestry, session, board, council, etc.]

Photo by Atish Sewmangel on Unsplash.

Introductory webinar recording now available

Searching for the Called offers live introductory webinars on a regular basis. These hour-long sessions cover the story behind Searching for the Called, the unique aspects of this approach to ministerial searches, the applicability of this approach to your context, an overview of the search stages, a website demonstration via a deep dive into one search stage, and search team coaching information.

The advantage of a live webinar is that participants can engage with the presentation and with one another, sharing insights and asking questions. The webinar schedule might not line up well with yours, however, or you might not have an entire hour to spare. For those reasons a 31-minute recorded webinar is now available. The recording addresses the same topics as the live webinar but without the person-to-person interaction. You are invited to view the video and share it with anyone who might be interested.

Introducing group coaching for search team leaders

Could your search team use additional guidance through the search process? Would it lower your anxiety to have pre-scheduled opportunities for working through the challenges of the search? Would you like to learn from and share best practices with other search team chairs?

If you answered these questions in the affirmative, I encourage you to sign up for group coaching. On the dates listed below I will walk participants through the designated phase of the search, then open up the conversation for coaching around the opportunities and obstacles each leader is encountering. All sessions will take place from 4:00-5:30 pm eastern.

September 9 - pre-search stages

October 14 - developing the search team

November 4 - designing process and core documents

January 13 - engaging with candidates, part  1

February 10 - engaging with candidates, part 2

March 24 - covenanting with the new minister

This group coaching will take place via the Zoom platform, which only requires an internet connection. The cost will be $100 per person per session, or $550 for all six sessions. If multiple members of your search team want to attend, the cost will be $150 per church per session, or $800 for all six sessions. Note that space is limited.

If you would like take advantage of this learning event in order to increase your confidence and competence for carrying out the search, sign up here. If you would like more information, contact me here. I encourage you to forward this post or this flyer about group coaching to others who might be interested. 

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash.

Next introductory webinar date announced

A free Searching for the Called introductory webinar will be offered on Wednesday, March 7, at 1 pm eastern. Any interested party is welcome to attend, and the information will be of particular interest to congregational and search team leaders, interim ministers, and judicatory and denominational leaders. Here’s what the webinar will cover:

Backstory for Searching for the Called. Learn where this approach to ministerial searches originated.

Unique aspects of this approach to searches. Find out how Searching for the Called is different from other books and manuals you might have read about ministerial searches.

Applicability to your context. Take the assessment to discern whether Searching for the Called is right for your church, either on its own or in tandem with an approach recommended by your judicatory.

Overview of the stages. Zoom out to see the big picture of five groupings of search stages.

Deep dive into the stage “Opening to one another: conducting initial interviews.” View a website demonstration and explore the subheadings in one particular phase of the search.

Coaching information. Hear about how search team coaching can complement the Searching for the Called materials so that your congregation can take full advantage of the opportunities afforded by the pastoral leadership transition.

Q & R. Ask any questions you have about Searching for the Called or about ministerial searches in general, and share your own expertise.

Click here to register for the webinar, and please share this invitation with others who might benefit.

Welcome to the Searching for the Called blog!

I’m glad that you’re here. In the eight months since Searching for the Called launched, I’ve talked with a number of search teams, judicatory and denominational leaders, and interim and settled ministers about the application of this particular approach and the broader theme of hospitality in ministerial searches. In the course of these conversations, several items of interest have come up that don’t need to be included in the framework and tools themselves but that might be helpful for a broader audience. I have started this blog to share these tidbits. Here is some of what you can expect from regular posts:

Questions and responses that have arisen more than once. If multiple parties thought it worth pursuing a particular query, you might also.

Trends I’m noticing. With two years of (formal) research and almost a year of teaching the Searching for the Called approach, I'm picking up on patterns.

Cultural impacts on the search process. Ministerial searches do not happen in a vacuum. How is the world around us affecting how churches – and candidates – look for that great fit?

Profiles in hospitality. I’m hearing a lot of stories about churches doing a great job welcoming the voices during their searches and integrating their new pastors into congregational life. I’m eager to tell you more about them.

Candidate insight. In a similar vein to the candidate perspective in each Searching for the Called stage, I want to let you know if a minister shares a thought that can help churches search better.

Grab bag of tips. Think of this category as “miscellaneous,” or in terms of position descriptions, “other duties as assigned.”

Do you have a question or topic you’d like to see addressed on the blog? Please drop me a line.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.