The language of hospitality

Searching for the Called is built on the scriptural mandate of hospitality. Since language shapes our understanding, a vocabulary that establishes an atmosphere of welcome is a key component of this approach.

Journey rather than marriage. Often congregations and search teams talk in terms of finding “Rev. Right.” The marriage metaphor breaks down, however, when the pastor-parish relationship is dissolved. The parting of ways feels like a divorce, with all the accompanying strong feelings. Calling a minister is more akin to inviting someone to journey with the church for a while. At some point in the journey, paths will diverge, and clergy and congregation will bless one another on their separate ways.

Settled/installed minister rather than permanent minister. “Permanent” carries the same linguistic baggage as the marriage metaphor. Minister-ministry setting matches are not permanent, but the hope is that they will last for a significant period of time.

Team rather than committee. Committees often function as collections of individuals. “Team,” however, denotes a deeper level of trust, a willingness to engage healthy conflict, and a commitment to mutual accountability around agreed-upon outcomes.

Discernment rather than decision. Humans make decisions. When people make space for and heed the counsel of the Holy Spirit, they are engaging in the spiritual exercise of discernment. Choices as important as calling a minister invite discernment.

Faithful rather than successful. Faithfulness asks, “God, what would you have me/us be and do?” Success asks, “What do I/we want?”

Need rather than want. Faithful searches follow up the question, “God, what would you have me/us be and do?” with “God, what kind of leader will help us inhabit that vision?” The question “What do we want in a minister?” tends to open the door to personal preference.

Worshipful work rather than business. There are important tasks to complete during a search process, but they are inseparable from praise, petition, and our formation as disciples of Christ.

Abundance rather than scarcity. Start with the assumption that your church has everything it needs – or can get access to requisite resources – to live toward God’s purpose for it.

Gender-neutral/inclusive rather than gender-specific terms. If your congregation is open to a range of candidates, reflect that willingness in written and oral communication. It’s an important signal to candidates, and it helps the imaginations of the search team members remain pliable.

Confidentiality rather than secrecy. Be as transparent as is appropriate with candidates and the congregation. The purpose of confidentiality is to protect candidates and the integrity of the process. Secrecy is about maintaining power.

Values rather than stances. Focus on theological and political hot buttons breeds division. Exploration of shared values promotes unity without uniformity.

Call rather than hire. Though a minister receives a W-2 from the church, the minister is not an employee. By IRS standards, clergy are self-employed. By theological standards, pastors are partners with the congregation. Church is not just the source for a paycheck for a minister; it is the minister’s faith community. Your pastor is not just there because your church offered a position; God drew your pastor there.

Covenant rather than contract. Covenants acknowledge the mutuality of the pastor-parish relationship. They outline the expectations each has of the other while recognizing that each party will, at times, need to extend grace to the other.


Glossary of terms

Here are explanations of umbrella terms you will see often throughout this website:

Search team. Search committees, call committees, pastor nominating committees, and the like.

Judicatory. Mid-level associations such as state conventions, conferences, synods, dioceses, presbyteries, and regions to which a congregation is connected for the sharing of resources.

Judicatory leader. The point person in your judicatory, whether a state coordinator, regional minister, conference minister, executive presbyter, or bishop.

Minister/pastor. An ordained clergyperson who serves either as a solo/senior minister or as a staff minister.  

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