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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Ask the Matriarch - "Exclusive" Edition

Our question this week revisits the call process, but with a twist some of us may have never experienced:

When you have multiple interviews for a new job, when do you draw the line and get exclusive? A friend has multiple plane-ticket interviews. If she loves the first one, what does she do with the one a few weeks later, when a ticket has already been purchased? Is there any more specific advice than "Be Honest"?

Jennifer, who blogs at An Orientation of Heart was our sole responder this week:

What a joy to have a number of congregations to be in conversation with!

If one has multiple interviews that involve monetary expenditures from calling congregations, I think it’s critically important to be candid at the outset and explain that one is in conversation with a number of settings and that time and visits will only help with the discernment process.

You’ve asked, “If she loves the first one, what does she do with the one a few weeks later, when a ticket has already been purchased?”

If your friend has been open from the start, the committee will know and not have to guess that your friend is interviewing with others. It may affect their process and provide her with clarity even before she has to make the next trip.

It’s also fair to say that just because your friend loves the first one, they may not feel similarly or may have some more discernment work to do, and so it will behoove your friend to keep all options open.

My experience is that the call process is definitely a two-way street and that being as transparent as one can be with pastor nominating committees models the authenticity and good communication one would hope they would share with candidates. I’ve found that it’s helpful to ask the questions to which you need answers and offer honest responses to the questions committees ask. Playing games usually is an indication of less than healthy interactions in the future.

Hope this helps!

Can you help? Do you have some advice for "multiple choice" call possibilities like this? Use the "Post a Comment" function to add your two-cents.

And please...we need questions! Send your questions to us at

May you live in God's amazing grace+



  1. I agree. I should also add that one should not accept a "fly out" interview if one is not seriously entertaining the position. Churches don't have tons of money sitting around for "practice" interviews. So, assuming that church #2 is a serious contender (whether or not you loved #1), one should go to that interview with an open heart and mind and see what happens. A great way to shoot yourself in the foot is to go to an interview with your heart actually set on a different position.

  2. I learned early in my process to ask the interview committee where they were in their process (some shared...some skirted the issue) and I always shared where I was in the process.

  3. I was as transparent as possible in my recent search process (where I was, how serious it was with other churches), and that led to ending up where I am now when they never would have expected to be extending a call so soon. It caused them to get serious about considering ME and allowed me to be serious about THEM in a way I would not have if I had been less forthright. And when other churches heard where I was and were clearly on a different timeline, I took that as a sign.

    I do think it's kind to be sensitive to churches and their expenses. In my case, there were a number of possibilities and I was wide open and frankly confused! I held off scheduling a neutral pulpit with a church I liked a lot thinking I was going to take one call, when I ended up taking another altogether. I was so glad the third church didn't have to swallow a plane ticket, and flattered they were interested enough to wait and see how things played out for me.

  4. No matter how you feel after an interview, if no call has been offered, it would be a disservice to everyone not to continue with interviews that are already scheduled. What if you love a place but the feeling isn't mutual?

    While I know the call process is supposed to be "different," it really isn't all that different from the academic hiring process in this respect. Those doing the hiring/calling need to respect the discernment of the one interviewing and vice versa. It does get trickier when an offer/call is made and one still has interviews -- because sometimes you need to finish those interviews to be clear about where you feel most called. In academia it is common to be given a couple of weeks to accept an offer, but that hasn't been my experience in the church. But if you need the time, ask for it. Better to take the time for the process to be played out than to force the issue.

  5. I also advocate for non-anxious transparency where the search process is concerned.

    Not all the churches I have ever interviewed for have agreed with me on that--I have the dubious honor of being the person interviewed the week after a church fell madly in love with their eventual pastor on more than one occasion! Talk about a wasted weekend. But tickets were already purchased, and sometimes the larger governing body requires churches to fly in a certain number of candidates, even if the first one they see is the right one for them. Call committees try very hard, but that kind of disengagement is hard for them to hide.

    I once had a call committee ask me--as the very last part of the interview before the ride back to the airport--to tell them why they should call me. Basically they asked me to sell myself. I looked them in the eye and told them the only reason they should even consider calling me is if it was the movement of the Holy Spirit that they should do so.

    I think about half of the committee wanted to move me into the manse right on the spot, but it was not to be, and I'm glad, ultimately.

  6. I didn't get this email for some reason. Maybe some others on the matriarch list didn't as well? Anyway, I think the one answer that was received, and these comments, are SO excellent. Jules...I once said the same thing. The other thing to keep in mind, not exactly on point of the question, but sorta related, is that when being inverviewed for a pastoral position it is just as important for the potential pastor to get a sense of the congregation as it is the other way around.


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