Site visit considerations: candidate comes to church

It is common practice for a candidate to visit the search team’s congregation in the final stage(s) of a search. This in-context interaction allows the candidate to get a feel for the church and to ask questions based on what the candidate observes. Consider the following when planning these visits.

When should this visit take place?

  • Schedule far enough out so that the candidate can make plans to be away from current ministry setting.
  • Be sensitive to liturgical seasons and to special events in the candidate’s current setting.
  • Be aware of major events in your own congregation, thinking through whether it would be enlightening or distracting to have a candidate visit during a special event.

Where should this visit take place?

  • Though the candidate needs to tour the physical plant at some point, in-home conversations add layers of hospitality and confidentiality.

What are the hopes and/or expectations of the candidate and the search team regarding the candidate’s family’s (if applicable) participation in the visit?

  • Be clear with the candidate if family is encouraged to come on the visit.
  • Be clear with the candidate about what conversations and events the spouse and/or child(ren) will be encouraged to attend.
  • Reassure the candidate that family is not being interviewed or evaluated.
  • Best practices:
    • For female candidates with small children, be sensitive to nursing needs
    • Schedule around feedings
    • Provide a private space for feedings
    • Offer experienced childcare for events as needed

What should the schedule for the visit be?

  • What does the candidate hope to take away from the visit? Whom does the candidate hope to meet?
  • What does the search team hope to show and learn from the candidate? Whom does the search team want the candidate to meet?
  • What kind of transition time does the candidate need?
    • Recovering from travel
    • Moving between scheduled events
  • How might the presence of the candidate’s family impact the schedule?

What should the candidate expect at each event or conversation?

  • Who will be present?
  • What is the expected dress?
  • What does the candidate need to prepare or bring?

Where will the candidate (and family, if applicable) stay?

  • Best practice: Arrange for a hotel room. Even extroverts will need time during which they don’t feel the need to be “on.”
  • Private space is especially important if the candidate will be bringing family on the visit.

How will visit expenses be handled?

  • Be clear about visit-related money matters.
  • Best practices: Pay up front for lodging, airfare, rental car, and entertainment/meals with the search team. Reimburse promptly for mileage and meals en route.

What are tangible ways the search team can extend hospitality to the candidate?

  • Give (or have waiting in the hotel room) a small token of welcome.
    • Water bottles
    • Coffee/tea packets
    • Sweet treats and/or healthy snacks
    • Small goods unique to the community
    • Information about the community
  • If candidate is bringing child(ren), include child-geared tokens of welcome