"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." We have heard this phrase from Matthew 7 since we were toddlers, so why don't ministerial search committees practice it?
Most businesses who interview prospective employees will usually give them an immediate "yes" or "no" or a date by which a decision will be made. Church committees could do the same, Harrison says.
Although I am no longer in a judicatory role, I still receive contacts from ministers who are seeking new places of service and calls from search committees asking for references on prospective ministers. Inevitably, I will run into a person who has been seriously "courted" by a committee and ask the person for an update. Too often the response is, "I never heard from them again."
We can learn something from the secular world here. Most businesses who interview prospective employees will usually give them an immediate "yes" or "no" or a date by which a decision will be made. It would seem to me that church committees could do the same.
When you are asking a man or woman to uproot their lives and perhaps their families to take on a new ministry, you at least owe the person the consideration of some resolution to a budding relationship – even if it is nipped in the bud!
Here are some suggestions in order for ministerial search committees to be more humane in their dealings with prospective candidates.
1. Provide a written acknowledgement of every resume received. This may be a form letter sent out by the church secretary. This simply lets the person know that their information has been received by the appropriate group.
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2. If at all possible, review resumes as they arrive and make a prompt decision about the potential of applicants. If you have developed a profile of the type of person you are seeking and a candidate does not fit those criteria, simply send a letter saying, "We are grateful for your interest, but your gifts, experience and/or skill set do not fit our profile."
3. If you have conversations with a candidate, go to hear them preach or invite them to your community and then decide that you are not a match, let the person know as soon as possible. Some committees fail to do this because they say, "We may have to go back to this person." You probably won't and if you do, you will need to explain what took you so long. When you are finished with a prospective minister, let the person know.
4. Once you have recommended a person to the church and he or she has accepted, your work is not done. Your committee should send a letter to each person who was a possible candidate and express appreciation for his or her interest. You do not have to name the person selected – the grapevine will take care of that – or the reasons for their selection, but the candidate will have some sense of closure to the process.
Is there any rule written somewhere that says that a committee must do this? No, but such responses are an expression of integrity, an acknowledgement of a fellow believer, and the way that you would want to be treated in a similar circumstance.
Ircel Harrison is an associate with Pinnacle Leadership Associates and director of the Murfreesboro Center of Central Baptist Theological Seminary. A version of this column appeared previously on his blog.