Seven Things Not to Do When Being Considered by a Church

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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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  • Tom, I’m going to meet with the current staff of a church that is considering calling me as their next senior pastor. What are your ideas on questions that should be asked in this context?

  • Hal Hunter says on

    Regarding number 3 – in 2010, our pastor suddenly and unexpectedly died. We lost him on a Tuesday, and by Friday of that week, before the memorial service on Saturday, we had resumes. One person attending the memorial dropped a resume in the church office. Before the search committee was organized a couple weeks later we had 6 or 8 more, plus a number of telephone and email inquiries. In these cases, being over-anxious certainly poisoned their chances. The committee refused to even look at resumes before they started formally deliberating. To add to the drama, one of the submitters also started calling staff members and deacons, trying to get personal contact information for members of the committee.

  • Jody Reiniche says on

    My comments concern some confusion about #7. I am currently in a support role at the church. But I spent nearly 20 years in real estate sales which at time one would receive competing offers. As an agent we had a responsibility to convey to the parties that there are other offers coming in and action might be needed in a timely offer if there true consideration to purchase. In other words it is important up front to communicate to parties involved what is or might be happening. As far as pitting one party against another, to me it is just sticks of poor business practice, not being open.

  • The one thing that I would suggest as some others is once you are made an offer get it in writing. I as some others experienced accepting a church then on my first Sunday as Pastor was told prior to getting in the pulpit that the salary I was quoted was wrong and it would be x amount, like it was no big deal. Needless to say that affected my preaching that morning. But I remained, as I believe it was God’s will for me to be there. It took me almost a year but I managed to get the amount that I was initially offered.

  • They are all great. #7 is great too. I think there is a time in the search process in which the Holy Spirit prompts you to be “exclusive” with one church. At least, that has been my background. A few years ago, I felt like that with a place, and felt prompted to politely let other churches know that I was moving ahead as the Lord led with one church. I didn’t want them to waste their time waiting on me. At the same time, there must be a similar time in which the church becomes zero’ed in on one candidate too. If the situation allows, frank communication between all parties saves awkwardness and sleepless nights. I’m currently the pastor of that church we stepped out on faith to be exclusive with, and are richly blessed for being where we felt we were led to go.

    And as an above poster remarked, when I was a worship pastor, I was threatened to have my “resignation letter drawn and and read for me” when it was incidentally found I was looking (their pastor contacted one of the members of my church unauthorized, who told my senior pastor). Gotta be careful, especially music, youth, and other pastors answerable to the senior pastor. It can be considered a loss of trust between pastor and place of service, so you have to be wise and discerning on the flow of information.

    Ultimately, God led Abram to Canaan, so I reckon He can “leadeth thee” as well!

  • Chris Bambrough says on

    I am going through this situation currently and #3 is my biggest concern. I emailed my résumé to the search committee and did not even hear if they received it or were able to read the attachment. After about 2 1/2 weeks, I finally emailed them again to make sure it was received and also asked if they had a timeline for when they were looking to fill the vacancy. I got an email saying they would contact me within the next few days. That was almost 2 weeks ago. My concern is that I don’t want to become a pest by continuing to contact them, but I also want to do my part on follow-up and make sure they know that I am very interested in the position. I feel like I’m walking a very thin tightrope.

  • I am curious about #3. I understand the danger in being overly anxious and that it could lead to trying to manage/manipulate the process. Where is that line between being overly anxious and showing interest in the position? In the day in the past when I was responsible for hiring in a business I was impressed with those who checked in after filling out an application. To me it showed some ambition and a desire to work for this particular company. Now if they kept calling and asking, then that would be a bad thing for sure. But is there a proper place for checking in after some weeks have passed or thanking them for their considering me as a candidate? Is it all off limits? I tend to not want to appear overly anxious so hold back, but do wonder if I should be a little more assertive in showing my interest. Any suggestions here?

  • If a church has made it clear to you as a newer member (not from anything you have said or manipulated) that they are looking to fill a certain position and that you might fit that role well, but they want to take it slow, what’s the best approach to follow up to see where they stand in the process? I’m a member, so I’m not going anywhere. The idea really came to me from others and I have submitted myself to God on the possibility, realizing that He has greater plans for me than I would dare to think for myself. Should I just continue on serving with no action made by myself to understand where they stand in the process?

    Part 2 is that while I have only been married to one woman, my spose was married at age eighteen, cheated on and deserted. I want to make sure the church understands this so they can know whether or not they would like to consider me for the position at all. Again, do I wait on God to see if they make a move, or do I pursue them again on the matter?

    The position is obviously still not filled, but I’m obviously not going anywhere or seeking the position outside of this one possibility due to the fact that I see God’s hand at work here, not in relation to other places.

    Any advice would be helpful. Thanks. God bless.

  • Be humble, be honest and let God be God…

  • Don’t be afraid to ask them hard questions, even if it means that you run the risk that they will no longer consider you as a candidate, in which case, you’ve dodged a bullet.

  • Wade Berry says on

    Great post and great discussion. I sometimes wonder if there is such a thing as too much transparency. When I have been the one who was hiring, I loved it when people were really honest about their histories, their hang-ups, and their expectations. Now that I am the one looking for a job, I try to bring that same kind of honesty to my search. But I’m a Gen-Xer; we value that kind of transparency, and so, it seems, do Millennials. Is that same kind of openness valued among Builders and Boomers? I know that they do not want candidates to be dishonest; that isn’t what I am asking. But when I have worked with previous generations, I have found them to be surprised (and a little unnerved) by the extent to which I and my younger colleagues are willing to throw open the doors of our lives so that everyone can see what is in there. Again, I’m not talking about being indiscrete; I’m just wondering whether the level of transparency desired by a search committee may depend on the generational makeup of its members.

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