Research methodology

You might be wondering how I arrived at the process I now offer to you. Great question! I 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. I utilized surveys, focus groups, and phone and Skype interviews, for these conversations. Participants came from sixteen denominations in North America.

I also worked my way 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. (I am grateful to Michael Wilson and the Center for Congregational Resources for arranging access to the Samford University library.) I also sought out denominationally-specific search and call materials from across the ecumenical spectrum.

After I had listened and read, I attended a course on discernment at Columbia Theological Seminary to help me filter all that I had learned through the lens of spiritual practices. I contracted with mentor coaches Brian Miller and Bill Copper from Coach Approach Ministries to help me synthesize and apply all of my gleanings.

Once I had a draft of the framework and tools, I asked interim ministers to beta-test it in their settings, and I dialogued with denominational leaders to identify 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, I welcome feedback on what does and doesn’t work well in each context. I intend for the details of each stage to be dynamic, and I will be making periodic updates based on what I hear.