The Search Committee Handbook: The Step-by-Step Guide to Hiring Your Next Minister, (Cookeville, Tennessee: Ecclesia Services, LLC, 2015)

I’ve read more than 20 books on preacher selection and transition. I usually select 6 of the best and distribute those to the group searching for a new preacher. At the training session for the search, I ask each person to share a “mustard seed” from the book they read.

This time, I bought The Search Committee Handbook, by Don Viar and gave to each member of the search committee. It has the best thought-out and comprehensive plan I’ve seen.

Here are the contents:

Section I — The Planning Phase

Chapter 1 — Establish a Vision

Chapter 2 — Form a Search Committee

Chapter 3 — Initial Committee Meeting

Chapter 4 — Planning Wrap-up

Section II — The Development Phase

Chapter 5 — Creating a Candidate Pool

Chapter 6 — Initial Candidate Contact

Section III — Selection Phase

Chapter 7 — Round 1 — Initial Selection

Chapter 8 — Round 2 — Remote Interviews

Chapter 9 — Round 3 — In-Depth Review

Chapter 10 — Round 4 — In-Person Interviews

Chapter 11 — Nomination

Chapter 12 — Engaging the Elders

Chapter 13 — Congregational Visit

Chapter 14 — The Offer

Section V — The On-Boarding Phase

Chapter 15 — Relocation Support Plan

Chapter 16 — Startup

If you are considering adding a full-time or part-time minister to the church staff, I recommend The Search Committee Handbook, by Don Viar.

What resources have you found for helping in the search for a new preacher?
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Buying a Tombstone…

…and other uncomfortable topics

I’m shopping for 2 items: an Apple watch and a tombstone. One seems to be more exciting than the other. However, I want to buy both. With the watch, I look forward to more enjoyable runs, sending and receiving messages, checking on news and weather, and looking at emails. With the tombstone, I’m reminded I won’t be alive another 71 years. I need to take care of details now.

Gail and I planned our funerals several years ago. We shopped for caskets, listed songs and pallbearers, and made other suggestions. Now we want to buy a tombstone and have it set.

Why? I think it’ll be helpful to us and our family to discuss the next phase of life — death. At our monthly business meetings of , I’ve started asking my son, Jerrie Wayne, “What do I need to do to make it easier for you to operate when I’m gone?”. Last month, we talked about user IDs and passwords to important websites.

Just as it’s uncomfortable for some to discuss their funeral and where they’ll be buried, I’ve observed preachers and elders rarely discuss how they’re going to leave their roles.

My, friend, Jeff Smith, replied to my last blog:

Jerry, I’ve learned from you and others that preparing to leave is as important as choosing who comes. In my case, I am 6 years from retiring from my current status, and will probably move closer to one of the boys. I have spoken this to my “inner circle”. The questions and or fears I have are these, 1) Will I have the courage to leave a town I’ve been in for over 26 years? 2) Who will replace me? [ In my opinion, he cannot be far “left” or “right” he must be in the middle.] 3) What will I do with the sense of abandonment I already feel just thinking about leaving. [I still have a little “savior” complex in me] Perhaps from your experience you could write a future article that goes into some of these things. I confess, “leaving” is a tender topic for me.

Jeff’s doing things I think are important about preparing to leave:

  1. He’s discussed it with his “inner circle.” He started early.
  2. He’s aware of his resistance to talking about a painful subject. Confession frees me to do what I resist. I’m releasing what I’ve been hiding.
  3. He’s labeled his fears and questions. Now he can work on each, decide what’s in his control, what isn’t, work on what he should, and let the rest die — shop for a tombstone, have a funeral.
  4. He’s confessed his “little savior complex.” I’ve heard more than one preacher state, “If I were to leave, this church would fall apart.” I can identify with all these after making a transition from “full-time preaching” to interim ministry in the Spring of 2007.[tweetthis]I’ve heard more than one preacher state, “If I were to leave, this church would fall apart.”[/tweetthis]

My shepherds at Berry’s Chapel asked for more definition about 4 years before I left. Before I came, I discussed with the previous elders my desire to do interim ministry. When new elders were appointed in 1995, I informed them of my intention to leave Berry’s Chapel to work as an interim minister at some point. Their statement was I could stay as long as I liked, but when I had an idea of the date, they’d like to know. They said, “Your contract calls for 90 days notice. We want longer to make a smooth transition.”

My first response to the approach was hurt. Even though I initiated the subject 10 years earlier, I thought I’d bring it up when I got ready.

  1. How will they make it without me and why would they want to?
  2. What if nobody wants me to work with them as an interim minister?
  3. Will finances work out?

Within a short time, Gail and I discussed our departure and came back with the suggestion of April 2007. We announced it to the congregation in June 2004. Our departure was smooth and encouraging. I appreciate the elders and the congregation for Apple Watchmaking our time enjoyable and our leaving as painless as death can be. I’d rather shop for an Apple watch than a tombstone. The timing was great. We’ve enjoyed 9 years of interim ministry and hope for more.

My Suggestions

  1. Shepherds and preachers, discuss this process at the beginning of the relationship — before the new preacher delivers his first sermon. It’s easier to talk about before marriage and honeymoon than after the first or fortieth “family fuss.”
  2. Discuss how long the elders and preacher want the next preacher to stay and how you’d like to end this relationship. This is especially helpful when the church has a rule that they change preachers every 5 years but don’t share the family rule until 4 years and 9 months after he starts. Will you give each other adequate notice? Will the preacher leave peacefully, even if he’s disappointed and doesn’t agree with the elders’ decision? Will the elders be as wise when they decide it’s time for the preacher to leave as they are at the invitation to begin the work? Will you give each other time to work through the grief of the congregation, the preacher, and his family on the preacher’s departure?
  3. Discuss in detail how you plan to prepare financially for the time when the preacher is unable or chooses not to be a full-time preacher. Incentives of matching retirement funds would be one way to do this. Discuss and encourage this often.
  4. Return to this discussion at least once a year and update expectations. There is less stress and emotion when the casket is selected months or years before death than the day after death.[tweetthis]There is less stress and emotion when the casket is selected months or years before death than the day after death.[/tweetthis]
  5. Plan for the preacher to take a sabbatical 7 years before his transition. I plan to write more about sabbaticals for preachers, elders, and others in a later post. This gives the preacher an opportunity to experiment with retirement and the congregation an opportunity to experience functioning without the regular preacher.
  6. Have a discussion of these issues every time the eldership changes: when one or more elders leave the eldership or when one or more are added. There’s an assumption things will continue as before, especially if you have a contract. Assuming isn’t good communication. You have a different eldership. They didn’t develop and sign the contract.

Jesus is an example of how to prepare for leaving: “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (Matthew 16:21, NKJV). When He brought up the subject and repeated it several times, they were afraid, disputed about who would be the greatest in the kingdom, and declined to discuss it further. But He continued to repeat the reality.

Shopping for a tombstone doesn’t evoke the most enjoyable feelings. But it’s better than leaving for others what I need to be doing about getting ready to die.

What are you doing to make a good transition?
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Have You Used the Yellow Pages Lately?

is there a better way to get the correct phone number?

While running on Old Charlotte Road in Nashville recently, I was struck with the scene: seven mailboxes and eight Yellow Pages® books. They had been there for some time. They were weather worn. Why haven’t people picked them up and enthusiastically started using them?

Fewer people are using Yellow Pages®. We threw ours away. I recently talked to a brother who used his new Yellow Pages® book for starting a fire.

We shouldn’t change the message of the gospel but we must update our methods if we are to reach the world with truth.

Two areas came to my mind as I was running and observing the lonely Yellow Pages® books.


[tweetthis]For many people, the first contact they’ll have with your congregation is your website.[/tweetthis]

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.

    1. When I visit a church website, I want to see the address, phone number, and times of services on the front page, easy to find. If you want me to visit, let me know by providing essential information quickly.
    2. I like to see the elders, deacons, and preachers: their pictures, perhaps with their families, a short bio. and contact information. Let them look human. What are their interests? Where did they grow up? Are these people who would be easy to approach? How do you communicate that?
    3. Keep it current. When I visit a church website, go to the calendar or bulletin posts and the latest date is July 21, 2012, I wonder if the church still meets. If you aren’t going to keep these things current, take them down. Pages are easy to delete. Someone’s ministry can be to keep the site up-to-date. That is valuable!
    4. Are you interested in serving more people? Is it clear on the website? When all the news, articles, and events are for “members only,” I hate to intrude. When I read of what the church is doing to make it easy and helpful for new people to come, I am encouraged.

Some good questions to ask:

How does your church communicate? What do you communicate? Why do you communicate it? Who’s your audience? What’s the best way to reach that audience? What are your goals? How are you going to reach those goals? What’s your style? Who’s responsible for the communication? Who makes the final decisions? Is communication a priority? [Church Websites 101: Don’t Start with the Web]

Social Media

  1. Facebook. Worldwide, there are over 1.55 billion monthly active Facebook users. Age 25-34, at 29.7% of users, is the most common age demographic [Zenphoria Digital Marketing]. Are you concerned about young people in the congregation? Are you advertising in the Yellow Pages and/or do you have multiple Facebook minister in the congregation who minister intentionally help others and relay opportunities for others to serve? Do you have a Facebook church page besides your website? Does it appeal to outsiders as well as insiders? Are you Facebook friends with members of your congregation? Do you watch for opportunities to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15, NKJV)? Do you pick up on concerns people express on Facebook and respond in an appropriate way?
  2. Twitter. According to their website, Twitter has 320 million active users. There are 1 billion visits each month to sites with embedded tweets. If this isn’t making sense, recruit some of your teens and twenties to help.
  3. There are many others: LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google Plus+, Tumblr, Instagram. Paul said, “to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

Brandon Edwards has taught me about the power of the internet and it’s blessings. I heard him two years ago at Freed-Hardeman. I was encouraged with what they were doing in Buford, Georgia to evangelize with a good website and Facebook. He has moved to Lewisville, Texas and continues to lead the way in reaching out to people who no longer use rotary pay phones.
You can read about some of his work on his website: Hidden Bridge Media .

Years ago, I heard a man say, “I don’t mess with those telephones. If I want to talk to somebody, IPay Phone F let my wife dial it and hand it to me.” I wasn’t impressed with his conservatism. When I hear leaders in the church make similar observations about computers and the internet, then lament the fact we are not attracting and keeping our young people, I hear a disconnect. That is not conservatism. It’s neglecting the powerful tools God has given us in 2016.[tweetthis]Don’t mess with telephones. If I want to talk to somebody, I let my wife dial it and hand it to me.[/tweetthis]

Thank God for printing presses, telephones, horses, buggies, cars, trains, airplanes, radio, TV, computers, tablets, the internet, and smartphones and for the people who are using them to the glory of God by telling the Good News. These devices are neither good nor bad but tools that can be used to carry God’s message. There are many free tutorials on YouTube . I’m using paid classes taught on to help me improve my skills. I found “mustard seeds” in these courses:

There are many opportunities to get the message out with reasonable investments.

How are you using these and other tools to further the gospel?
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