Pastoral Search Process
The Ministerial Committee is here to serve churches who are entering or who have already entered a season of transition in pastoral leadership. Such seasons are never easy but we trust the Lord to lead and guide us in the search. We offer the following guidance to any church who has questions about the search process and how to conduct a thorough, healthy, prayerful search that leads to a great match between pastor and congregation.
General Overview for Pastoral Search Committees
- Join in a prayer covenant for God’s guidance and direction in the selection.
- Open and close all meetings with prayer.
- Schedule regular meetings.
- Elect a chairman, vice-chairman, and secretary.
- Establish a covenant of confidentiality with clear boundaries for the committee.
- Decide early in the formation of the committee the method of voting, type of majority to select person and how decisions are to be made.
- Keep the session and the congregation informed of the Search Committee’s progress, but also keep confidential, even from family members and church officers, the names of individuals being considered.
- Keep the Ministerial Committee fully informed of progress.
- Keep clear and accurate files of ministers under consideration, including their Personal Information Forms with the dates it was requested and received, correspondence with persons, decisions made concerning each candidate.
- Keep candidates still under consideration informed of committee’s progress.
- Promptly inform candidates when they are no longer under consideration.
- Although unanimity is not essential, strive to receive unanimous and enthusiastic support in the choice of the candidate.
- Include the pastor, in the case of associate or assistant pastor searches, as an ex-officio member, to attend any and all meetings of the search committee.
- Avoid speaking for the committee unless authorized to do so.
- Avoid making a commitment to a person concerning a call during preliminary communications and interviews.
Procedural Guidance for Pastoral Search Committees
The steps outlined below are the result of practices which have been proven over the years:
- The session calls a congregational meeting to elect a Search Committee.
- Prior to that meeting, the session will ask discerning and spiritually mature members of the congregation, often representing such key areas as the session, the Christian Education Department, the Deacons, etc., to consider serving on the Search Committee and nominates them to the congregation (G.11-5.A). The number is usually between 7 and 10 members.
- The congregation elects a Search Committee at this duly called meeting. This meeting should include an action providing for the Search Committee to serve until the duly called minister is ordained/installed.
- The Search Committee consults with the Ministerial Committee of the presbytery and requests that a member of the Ministerial Committee be appointed to act as a liaison.
- The Search Committee is encouraged by the presbytery to give priority to all persons within the EPC seeking calls.
- The Search Committee selects the best prospect for the position and discusses the suggested terms of the call with the minister, asking for a response. In its discussion with the minister, the Search Committee should explain that it cannot by itself extend a call to a minister but only proposes a recommendation to the congregation that the minister be called.
- The Search Committee obtains the consent of the Ministerial Committee. (If the Ministerial Committee declines to consent, the Search Committee may persist with the nomination, recognizing that the presbytery will be informed of the Ministerial Committee’s response to the candidate and has the right to reject the call. G.11-3).
- Please note that the Ministerial Committee cannot approve a minister without first asking for a background check, as well as conducting its own interview regarding the minister’s experience of salvation, spiritual growth, and views on Bible, theology, sacraments, Book of Order, the Reformed tradition, and the nature of the office the Minister of the Word. (G.13-4,5)
- The Search Committee notifies the Church Session which should call a congregational meeting.
- The Search Committee gives its report at this congregational meeting and makes the recommendation to call a Pastor/Associate. A majority favoring the recommendation is required to elect a pastor. The exact vote shall be recorded in the minutes and the person elected shall be notified of the count.
- The call of the congregation shall be stated in a form similar to the form in G.11-5F (see p. 113).
- The call and terms of call are forwarded to the Ministerial Committee for processing.
- The congregation should invite two or three members to speak on the candidate’s behalf when he is presented to presbytery.
At the service of ordination/installation, the Moderator of the service should note the work of the Search Committee and express appreciation to the Committee for its work.