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One of the my core values is clarity. Hence, entering into search processes early in my career drove me nuts, as the process seemed opaque. I never knew what happened when or why. Nor could I understand why there were long lapses in communication from the search committee. Through personal experience and through coaching colleagues, a five step understanding of the search process emerged.

This five step model of a search process will be outlined in a series of blogs over the coming weeks. Before looking at the search process from the clergy’s point of view, let’s peek behind the curtain and see the process search committees usually follow. They also use a five step process, roughly parallel to what we need to do as clergy.

Understanding the process from a search committee’s perspective
Search committees are established by parish vestries to oversee a lengthy (12-18 month) process of identifying a new clergy leader. Sometimes the search tasks are divided between a search committee and a profile committee. This separate profile committee may be given the initial task of defining who the parish is and what kind of leadership they need. The search committee will then use the profile and job description to recruit and screen candidates. At the end of the process, the vestry may make the final choice among a limited number of final candidates. Search committees are chosen to represent major constituencies within a parish community. They usually work with a trained diocesan consultant, who assists them with some of the technical aspects of the search process.
Search committees are trying to answer two basic questions as they seek viable candidates to present to the vestry:

• Does the candidate have the requisite skills and experience to fill the job?

• Will the candidate fit well within our parish community? (Do we share a common purpose and common values? Will we enjoy living and working with this candidate?)
Search and profile committees oversee a five-step process:
1. Define the parish, the open position, and the qualities sought in candidates. This information is written in the parish profile, the OTM Community Ministry Portfolio, and auxiliary documents such as a parish survey or chamber of commerce information about the parish community.

2. Gather the names of potential candidates. Sources include: nominations from parishioners, nominations from the diocese, results of the OTM search, and direct responses from clergy to public listings (e.g., OTM Portfolio – Search Community Portfolios page, transitional ministry newsletters, and ads in church publications). Some dioceses require all applicants to first contact the diocesan transition ministry officer; others permit direct contact with a search committee.

3. Winnow the initial list of names to a manageable number that the search committee can meet. Information used in this winnowing process include: a résumé, OTM Portfolio, response to questionnaires, sample sermons, phone interviews and references. This winnowing process often occurs in two or three stages. For example, a committee may reduce an initial pool of candidates from eighty to forty just on the basis of just the résumé and OTM Portfolio. Then they may reduce the pool from forty to twenty on the basis of answers to a questionnaire and sample sermons. They could further reduce the pool from twenty to eight candidates on the basis of phone interviews and phone reference checks.

4. Meet the remaining candidates. Usually a few members of the search committee will visit the candidate in his or her current ministry location. These visits typically include an interview, interviews with references and attendance at Sunday worship. After this step a few more candidates may be winnowed out and the finalists are invited to the parish for an interview and tour of the community.

5. Decide on a final candidate and/or make a recommendation to the vestry ranking the final candidates.

NEXT POST – Understanding the process from the clergy’s perspective