The scenario is common. A church has contacted you. You have a sense of God’s leadership to take some next steps. You have prayed about it. You have prayed with your spouse, and you are both on the same page. The process begins. You enter it with excitement and anticipation.
What, then, are some of the actions by you that might discourage the church from considering you further? I have worked and spoken with hundreds of churches that shared with me what a candidate did that hurt his or her opportunity to move forward. Here are seven of the most common.
- Don’t stop praying. We can become so focused on the opportunity that we neglect to submit the matter totally to the Author of all great opportunities. Continue to be fervent in prayer, seeking God’s will and wisdom.
- Don’t stop seeking your spouse’s input. My wife, Nellie Jo, is wise and godly. I have messed up on more than one occasion where I plowed ahead with a ministry opportunity without really seeking her input. Every time I failed to include her, I have made mistakes. Your spouse’s life will be impacted as much as yours by this potential move.
- Don’t act over anxious. I recently spoke to a chairman of a pastor search committee regarding a situation where I had recommended a candidate. The chairman informed me that they were not going to pursue my recommendation further because the candidate seemed overly anxious. Indeed, he had emailed and phoned the chairman four times in one week.
- Don’t call members in the prospective church. Word travels quickly. It will soon be known that you are trying to manipulate the process by getting church members to be an advocate for you.
- Don’t fail to be responsive. This one can be a challenge because churches are often notoriously slow in responding to the candidate. Don’t follow their example. Instead, be prompt and courteous with every request they make as long as you are a candidate.
- Don’t fail to be transparent and forthcoming. Another recent story of mine is telling. Again, a search committee chairman contacted me to let me know they were no longer considering a candidate. They conducted a social media search of the candidate and found that he had a track record of being negative and critical on blogs and other media. The chairman said that the tone of the candidate’s comments was problematic; but his failure to disclose this issue ahead of time was even more troubling.
- Don’t play one church against another. There are exceptions. You may have a deadline to respond to a second prospective church, so you feel it is a matter of integrity to let the first prospective church know. But most of the time, letting churches know other congregations are considering you is just not the best path to take.
Let me hear from those of you on either side of the search process. I bet we can have some healthy interaction.
photo credit: create-your-own-sign sign via photopin
Posted on February 9, 2015
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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I would suggest not revealing to your current congregation that you are seeking another call. If you are an associate, you still need to be careful. Tragically, you might be fired with no notice just for looking around.
Unfortunately the pragmatism of your advice is probably spot on, but the way that it is worded also brings a question to mind. You say “seeking another call”, does this mean that you no longer feel called to be doing what you are doing presently? Does it mean that you had previously settled for something other than what you felt called to? Have you yet to pinoint what you have been called to and need time to explore it? I have to admit that when I first read it my cynical eye just read it as a spiritualized euphemism for seeking other employment.
Of course the hope would be that an honest conversation be had about feeling called elsewhere, needing time to explore that, and hoping for continued support as you are willing to continue serving in the meantime… probablt too much to hope for though.
I am defining call as position description and not using call like “calling” which generally means to get in or out of ministry. Sometimes they can be promotions to bigger churches, higher positions, or ministry to a different group of people.
In this case, I have always wondered what it the best explanation for a sitting Pastor to give his church when he is preaching away at a perspective church. I agree that you dont want to let the cat out of the bag, because there comes trouble with that.
What do you all think would be the best thing to do in the sitiuation when you feel your time is over where you are and its time to “knock” on other doors?
Ive been in this situation before and felt very condemned and also pressured when just checking inot another pastoral position.
Regarding #7, I am contacted by a church (A) to meet for our 1st official sit down. A couple of days prior to church A contacting me, church B sends me a questionnaire following a very brief and informal phone conversation. When I am at my sit down meeting, I express the importance of dealing honestly and with integrity with one another and that I did not want to assume they were talking with others or were not and visa versa and that this “define the relationship” moment should take place at some point down the road, if we both felt led to proceed. At this point I disclose the very brief conversation on the phone with the other church as I felt I needed to be upfront in the matter.
I did this not out of manipulation but out of a desire to be honest and forthright. Does this seem like the right approach?
Timing is crucial on disclosure. I have found better to be “too early” in disclosing anything a church might want to know rather than “too late.” Early disclosure risks them looking for someone with fewer “strings” attached, but being too late risks the church feeling you were deceptive or “hiding.” But in truth, it is on the church to ask if you are in consideration with any other church and where that process is.
I think it is fair to assume that if a church is looking for a candidate, they are considering more than one person. Otherwise, the search committee is not doing its due diligence. At the same time, it is also fair to assume that a person looking for a position is considering more than one position. So, bringing the subject up unnecessarily appears to be an attempt to manipulate the process.
At the same time, it is fair to inform a prospective church if you have a deadline that you must meet. But, understand that when faced with that deadline, a church that is not ready to make a decision will usually wish you well in the other position.
I dealt with #7 two years ago. I ended up choosing the church that was more prompt and considerate. The other church never would get back with me. I finally had to tell them to take my name out of consideration. The considerate church called me as their pastor, but the crazy part is, some folks at my church do business with some folks in the inconsiderate church, and they’re in two different areas of the country. Turns out the inconsiderate church liked their interim and finally hired him.
As a guy who likes to fish, I’ve often thought of getting a new position like fishing. You have to work your lure to attract them, but once you’ve hooked their interest, you have to play it carefully or you’ll break the line. A couple of times I got too eager and the conversation broke off. It’s a useful analogy.
I am going through this process now and fully agree with what you write. In regards to #7 I have found the best way to deal with this situation is to only deal with one church at a time. While candidating at the current church I was approached by another church. I explained where I was currently at with the current and if things did not work out I would gladly talk to them. I believe having two churches in the process adds too many complexities to the process.
I agree with you totally( deal with one church at a time. I believe this is the best way to be up front honest and transparent. I was in the same situation. The second church waited. When things did not work out with the first church the second one came back and I was eventually called a their pastor.
We had a pastor candidate who was looking for a house to move into before he was even voted on by the church. I don’t know if he had a divine revelation or he made the assumption that he would be called. He was called but didn’t stay too long.
This is a bit off topic, but in number 2 you said don’t stop seeking your spouses input. Obviously a single pastor or someone widowed like me cannot do this.
My question is this: does being single or widowed hurt your chances with a church? If so, is there anyway to address this issue in such a way that it does not immediately disqualify you? Do you need to include marital status on a resume?
I’m currently very happy and content in my church and have no sense of call to leave. However, as a widower in his 40’s I’ve wondered if this would ever disadvantage me in the future.
If a church is wise, it should not hurt you in being considered for a pastoral role. As one who has hired many pastors, I’d see it as a deep wound that God allowed and would make me slow down to be sure you were fully considered and well cared for in the process so as not to deepen or re-open the wound.
I’m married now, but I was a single pastor for 11 years, and I found that it was a big hindrance to churches showing interest in me. However, I had never been married. Your situation might be a little different as a widower, because you at least have some firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to be married. You can also be helpful to the bereaved, since you know what it’s like to lose a spouse.
I am retired now but I got burned by the same mistake twice. I trusted people’s memory and did not get the terms of call in writing. The first one concerned moving expenses. I was thinking moving company while they provided 5 men, a rented truck and a pickup. My furniture was damaged and never repaired. The second concerned a denominational agency. I was told that my salary would be the same as I was getting in my previous agency. Nine months later when I got my first paycheck it was 20% less. The man who told me this said it did not happen because he had to get approval from a committee. This really put my family in a financial bind because I had a child who was starting college. Two years later they raised my salary back to the previous level but the financial damage was done. I hope nobody suffers from this mistake and can benefit from my experience. This is why I am putting my two mistakes in writing here. More people will see it than on my YouTube channel..
Been burned in finances twice myself. Very hard and difficult not to sink into bitterness. Since then, I’ve always gotten things in writing and been very transparent about my financial expectations. This is hard because you don’t want to make money the primary issue. But you’ve got to provide for your family (and yourself…speaking specifically of retirement issues here) and you must make your needs clear. Unfortunately, churches and finance committees don’t always follow the golden rule. For the sake of your family, and not carrying baggage forward in the ministry, I have found it best to make my expectations clear and get the entire package in writing.
Would you please help me understand #7 better? In the scenario where a pastor is far in the interview process with two churches, would it be consider rude or distasteful to let church A know that church B has offered him a position? Let’s say that the pastor believes that church B is a better fit, but church A needs to know something soon. Apparently, church B is on a different timeline.
That is why I noted the need for exceptions. My concern in number 7 is when a candidate uses one church against the other in the interview process.
Great suggestions and I appreciate this article so much. I resonate with the last exception as I was given a deadline for one church and was waiting on the decision for another church. I saw it as an important act of transparency for me to be honest with both churches about the process. I was not leveraging one over the other for salaries but simply wanted to be open about the whole process and my decision-making.
I think you could be a real danger when a pastor tells one perspective church they offered me “x” what can you do? I really feel the church should not necessarily be about the money but about the calling if that makes sense?
That makes total sense. Thanks, Robbie.
Would you suggest only dealing seriously with one church at a time. In my experiences this has made the decision making process much easier.