Considerations regarding the presentation of multiple candidates

Some denominations expressly forbid the practice of introducing more than one candidate to the church leadership team and/or congregation as a whole. Other denominations place fewer (or no) restrictions on this practice. If your situation falls into the latter category, think through the following.

Who is sponsoring the search?

  • To whom does search team answer: church leadership team, congregation as a whole, judicatory, or none of the above?
  • What level of input does this body expect or require on the selection of the minister?

Since the most common best practice is to introduce only one candidate, what would be the search team’s motivation for presenting more than one candidate?

  • Positive: The search team wants the congregation/leaders to have greater ownership of the outcome in order to deepen investment in the called minister.
  • Negative: The search team doesn’t want to be held responsible if the called minister is not a good fit.

What is the level of trust between the search team and the congregation/leaders?

  • If there was great intentionality around gleaning information from the whole congregation early in the process and the trust level is high, congregation/leaders will want and need less input later in the process and will have fewer questions about the outcomes.

How much information can the search team transfer to the congregation/leaders?

  • What are the limits of confidentiality? Do the limits allow sharing enough information for the congregation/leaders to make an informed choice?

How has the congregation been discerning in parallel with the search team?

  • To what extent has the congregation/leadership been mirroring the search team’s spiritual disciplines? What is the impact on their ability to discern (rather than decide on) the next minister?

What is the most hospitable option for the candidates?

  • Can the search team present more than one candidate without the finalists feeling like they are in a horse race or beauty pageant?

What are the possible long-term effects of presenting multiple candidates?

  • Some congregants/leaders may come develop a sense of loyalty to the candidate who is not called. Their disappointment could manifest in unhelpful ways in the short and long term.

Note that if the search team’s goal in introducing multiple candidates is unanimity in the congregation, that outcome is unlikely. It is rare that a candidate generates excitement in 100% of the congregation.

If the search team senses the need to see more than one candidate in action, other options include visiting candidates in their contexts or setting up neutral pulpit preaching opportunities.