Research methodology

You might be wondering how Searching for the Called was created. Great question! It started with a lot of listening to ministers in search processes, settled ministers who had been in their positions less than five years, leaders of recent and in-process searches, middle judicatory and denominational leaders, lay members of middle judicatory bodies who support ministers and congregations in transition, and interim ministers. It utilized surveys, focus groups, and phone and Skype interviews for these conversations. Participants came from sixteen denominations in North America.

Research also included working through an extensive bibliography of books, articles, and websites about the nuts and bolts of search processes, interviewing and hiring best practices, congregational self-studies, team-building, discernment, coaching, and starting new ministry positions well in addition to denominationally-specific search and call materials from across the ecumenical spectrum. (Thank you to Michael Wilson and the Center for Congregational Resources for arranging access to the Samford University library.) 

Listening and reading laid the groundwork for discernment, and a course on discernment at Columbia Theological Seminary filtered all the research through the lens of spiritual practices. Mentor coaches Brian Miller and Bill Copper from Coach Approach Ministries aided in the synthesis and application all of the gleanings.

Once there was a draft of the framework and tools, interim ministers beta-tested it in their settings, and denominational leaders identified aspects of the approach that needed strengthening. (Craig Janney, Reference and Referral Specialist for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, was particularly thorough, insightful, and encouraging with his comments.) All responses were incorporated into this 1.0 version.

As congregations apply the elements of this approach to their search processes, feedback is welcome on what does and doesn’t work well in each context. The details of each stage are intended to be dynamic, and there will be periodic updates based on input from search teams, ministers, and judicatory and denominational leaders.