Reference or Reality Check writes:
I'm not about to leave my current church--at least I don't think I am, but I'm wondering: when the time comes, how does one go about getting references from within the church where one is pastor without needlessly alarming people?
The first time I had to do this, the types of people to ask were a no-brainer. I was in seminary, so our placement office advised asking somebody who knows me in an academic setting, somebody from my home Presbytery, somebody from my home church, somebody on my care committee, somebody from internship, etc. I even had one person from another faith (Jewish). I'm just not sure where to start this time! What makes a good mix of references in a subsequent call?
This is tricky because sometimes even the trustworthiest church friends find themselves a tad shaken when they think their pastor might be leaving. They might pull away,accidentally-on-purpose let the proverbial cat out of that bag, etc. You could consider a person or family that recently left the church under good conditions—for instance, someone who moved out of the area.
If that’s not possible, you can let the committee know that you hesitate to share a current parishioner's name with them until it becomes clear that this might really be a match. In the meantime, maybe there are others who can attest to your skills and gifts who are not parishioners (people from other congregations with whom you serve on committees, other local pastors, judicatory leaders, etc.) Way to think ahead.
St. Casserole says:
When the time comes, ask the church member who knows you well and is discreet. Asking Presbytery staff along with a person in the community who knows your service work is good, too.
The Personal Information Form (PIF) guidelines may offer suggestions for references, too. Often search committees place phone calls to references, so find out if your reference can receive non-business calls at work and when is a good time for them to be called. It will help you if your references are personable on the phone and adore you.
Not Yelling Fire in a Crowded Theater writes:
I anticipate having members of one or more search committees come to the parish I currently serve. While I had search committees come when I was serving as an assistant, I've never had them come while I am the rector and only priest. Only a few key people in the parish know that they are coming.
To keep the anxiety of the parish low, I am not planning to tell the rest. Is that a good idea? And, how does one best organize the day to welcome the search committee, maintain confidentiality of the process (assuming I don't tell the whole parish), and act normal when there is an "audition" under way? Any thoughts or experience with this will be appreciated. Thanks!
How big is your congregation? In smaller churches, there is almost no way for a visiting search committee to be inconspicuous. In the end, there's not much you can do to prevent some folks from figuring out what is going on. But you can work with the search committee to prevent “major leaks,” so to speak.
Some things that you’ll want to consider:
- Ask them not to sit all together. Six or seven visitors walking in en masse and sitting together is a dead giveaway for anyone paying even a little bit of attention.
- Ask them in advance if they have an idea of how they will introduce themselves if one of your members approaches them, because, hey—you've been training your people to be open and hospitable to visitors, right?
- Are they from far away, or from near enough that some of your folks might know and recognize them. (Hey! That's my brother-in-law's boss from Nearbysville! What the heck is he doing here?)
- Will they be going out for lunch afterwards to discuss their search? If might be better if they don't go to the same restaurant that half your congregation is in the habit of frequenting for Sunday brunch.
- (This one from Jan): Encourage them to split up, because five strangers sitting together would definitely be noticed, especially if it’s a small congregation.
We among the matriarchs are having a grand ol’ time figuring out this Blogger conversion thing, so bear with us when it delays our posts. I just discovered that many of you commented to a post I made in the Lounge at the beginning of January, so I just wanted to send belated thanks, and note briefly that the reason I’ve been so quiet over there is that I decided to look into that opportunity. We’ve codenamed it Operation Hogwarts.
We got some great questions last week but we could use a few more, particularly with regard to your problem parishioners and balancing your personal life (Dating? Marriage? Kids?). So send those along to our wise ones (as you’re so fond of calling them—aren’t they AWESOME?) at firstname.lastname@example.org. All queries are kept confidential.