Dean Phelps, Transitional Regional Minister
The advent of professional social networks like LinkedIn and employment sites like Indeed and Monster.com have changed the landscape of pastoral searches and ministerial relocation. Other web sites have launched that provide employment services specifically for churches and clergy. In this new environment, we might ask if the Disciples’ Search and Call system, managed by Disciples Home Missions and the Disciples’ 31 regions, still has value. Can these other options offer a viable way for search committees to find ministry candidates or to supplement what is available in the Search and Call system?
Search and Call works through the Disciples network. The system builds on the foundation of relationships we have built. A minister cannot put a profile into circulation without a reference from their regional minister. That, at a minimum, confirms that they are ministers in good standing with the Disciples. In addition, a regional minister can often provide helpful insight about a candidate to a search committee.
Search and Call also requires a minister to undergo a thorough criminal background check through Oxford Document Management before placing their profile into circulation. Employment sites may take a caveat emptor approach to this requirement, leaving the responsibility of a criminal background check to potential employers.
Some Disciples ministers may avoid the Search and Call system or supplement their search using an employment service site. They may have a perception that the biggest and best churches, however that may be understood, also are not using Search and Call. While that perception may be somewhat true, the reality does not match the perception. In the case of both ministers and churches, turning to other services results from a “grass is always greener” assumption: We’ll find the best church or find the best candidate on the other side of the fence.
A minister might also work outside the Search and Call system in order to circumvent the Disciples network. If a Disciples minister wants to seek a position through an employment site, they don’t need any approval or recommendation from the regional minister. Without the disclosure required by Search and Call, a search committee may not receive some vital information.
The Search and Call system honors our history, values, and identity as Disciples. Through Search and Call, churches find ministers that have a lifetime of Disciples ethos as well as ministers that have come from other traditions but understand and appreciate what it means to have a chalice on the church sign.
I will be the first to tell you that the Disciples’ Search and Call system is in desperate need of repair. I know that it is based on assumptions from 30-40 years ago. I know that it has not kept pace with the culture, and in so many ways it has not kept pace with internet technology.
Still, I’m not ready to kick the system to the curb. I still believe the Search and Call system is a valuable resource. However, it works best in relationship. It requires conversation. The system still works when churches and ministers alike develop a clear understanding of their mission, gifts, and call. The system works when we are able to prioritize what we’re looking for and what’s most important, because we likely will not find everything we want. The system is designed to help congregation and clergy alike prayerfully develop those understandings.
The process of search and call works best when all involved–search committees, congregations, candidates, and regional ministers–surround the process in prayer. The system works best when all partners stay in conversation with one another. Through prayer and conversation, we work toward our shared goal, to find the pastor God is calling to help us form our faith and serve our communities.