In the Presbyterian denomination, pastors are never appointed to their congregations. There’s a huge open, messy system that resembles computer dating. And then the congregation votes on the choice of a search committee. Sort of like a political election without the Super PAC money.
Actually it’s not at all like a political election, except when it is.
Nevertheless, there are a couple of circumstances that involve somebody like me giving Pastor Nominating Committees a select file of candidates who might be Your Next Pastor. Committees or elders or congregations still vote but I wield some power in these situations. It’s a bit daunting actually.
Instead of computer dating, I become the yenta, matchmaking my way through my contacts to try and offer 4-5 possibilities.
This is what I’ve learned in my role as matchmaker-counselor-denominational person:
- I used to give about 4 excellent choices with one not-so-great choice, at the advice of a HR person who explained that it’s important to show people the stark differences. The problem was that committees often chose the not-so-great candidate – not because they weren’t smart or savvy. It’s just that they were really busy and often didn’t look past the paper or first impressions (i.e. Pulpit Candy.)
- Good matches are not about gender or race or age, although churches tend to have a Dream Candidate in mind who often looks like their childhood pastor or a young man with a pretty wife or a guy with a cape and super powers.
- There’s a spark.
MaybeProbably, it’s a slowish process to move from Introductions to The Spark. But it’s a holy moment when a Search Committee and a Candidate for Pastor start seeing each other in a new way. “She could be our pastor,” they start to think. “I could be their pastor,” she realizes. Sweet.
- This is not about us. I might want my best friend to be a pastor in this Presbytery. I might have always aspired to be the Head of Staff at Big Church on the Corner. But none of that matters. This is a God thing.
- If we take it away from God and try to force something, disaster will ensue. No exceptions. (Same is true for dating and marriage, people.)
- Sometimes your new pastor will not be an obvious choice at first. Those are especially fun matches.
For the record, I’m always looking for exceptional human beings to serve congregations here in Chicagoland, especially if those pastors like challenges. How do I meet your future pastor? Not via computer matching sites, most likely. We meet via connections or conferences or random encounters. I’m always looking.
Image from HIMYM.