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What Happens When You Fail to Cast A Wide Net

Man with fishing netFinding great candidates for your ministry opening can be challenging even in the best of situations. I’m a firm believer in the principle that great candidate pools must be built through a combination of advertising, networking with your peers and most especially outright recruiting. Let me tell you a cautionary tale about the search for a new pulpit minister at the Anytown Church of Christ where their pride made a tough job even harder (the names have been changed to protect the innocent).

The Anytown Church of Christ is a large, conservative congregation with an average attendance of about 600 people on Sunday mornings. Anytown is an idyllic small town located in the “buckle” of the Bible belt with scenic beauty, a low crime rate and an even lower cost of living. They are known for their stable leadership and have been blessed with very little minister turnover over the years.  In other words, this is the dream job for many ministers.

At their first Search Committee meeting, the Committee Chair stated his belief that candidates would “line up to apply for this job”. He didn’t want to advertise the position on the Internet or in publications because “that might attract too many candidates.”  If I were to use a fishing analogy, he expected big healthy bass simply jump into the boat on their own. The Committee would take their pick from among these fish and release the rest back into the water.

After two months, the Committee stopped to assess their “catch”. As they reviewed and interviewed candidates, they soon realized that some of the fish were catfish, not bass. Other fish were too small and still others lacked the strength and vitality that they had hoped to find. They didn’t have a single keeper in the whole bunch.

They then asked their ministers to pick up a rod and reel and cast a line out into their favorite fishing holes. The ministers made about forty phone calls over the next two weeks to their friends across the brotherhood and netted five names for their efforts. As the committee pursued these five names, three of the ministers wouldn’t even nibble on the bait. Another minister nibbled on the bait but soon decided to remove his name from consideration. At the end of 120 days, they only had one real candidate for the position. 

They then decided to advertise the position on the Internet for another 60 days. Unfortunately, that too failed to produce the volume or quality of candidates that they had hoped to find.  At the end of 6 months they returned to their one and only candidate. While he didn’t have all of the skills or experience that they set out to find, they offered him the job and prayed he would accept so that they didn’t have to start the search all over again. 

Does that sound like a healthy way to hire a minister to you?  The morale of the story is that you might be part of a great congregation, but that doesn’t mean that the “right” candidates are going to come running. You have to cast a wide net to develop a quality candidate pool. Someone has to make dozens (if not hundreds of calls) to find these candidates. As your committee plans for the development phase of the Minister Hiring Process, please don’t underestimate the work required to build a great candidate pool.

Qualities of the Ideal Search Committee Chair…
We Like You But We Are Going To Keep Looking…


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Minister Match did an excellent job connecting me with a congregation that I would not have known about otherwise.  Don Viar did an excellent job representing my concerns to the search committee and did an excellent job communicating their concerns ...
Drew Baker - Preaching Minister, South Fork Church of Christ
The Minister Match team was very professional. The entire process was very transparent. It was structured and organized, which made it a whole lot easier. I felt that the team also had a genuine concern for the Lord's church and His ministers. ...
Joshua Duboise - Family Minister, Mesa Church of Christ
I strongly encourage ministers to take advantage of the expertise of the folks at Minister Match to help put together a high quality resume. They will help you identify strong points you didn't even know you have! I am extremely satisfied with the ...
Joel Shelton - Commerce Church of Christ
We had a very good experience with Minister Match.  This was not the first time we had searched for a minister, but it was the first time we used a search firm.  Our experience with Minister Match was a complete success.  In previous searches, we ...
Jim Holway - Minister, Sunset Church of Christ
It was a great process for me. Minister Match did a good job of keeping confidentiality in collecting information, and the communication process was very clear. The staff was very easy to deal with and very helpful. Overall the experience was very ...
Joel Soumar - Youth Minister, Mesa Church of Christ
The candidate pool for our need was something we had to work to develop but Don was insistent we wait for God's guidance and let it fill up when our human nature wanted to start right away. This served us well since our best qualified candidate ...
Jon Bouley - Family Minister Search Committee Chairman, Mesa Church of Christ
Minister Match helped us hire a new minister in half the time we took for our previous hire.  We used the Minister Match process which helped us build a consensus of what we wanted.  Minister Match's network then helped us to build an ...
Tom Long - Search Committee Chairman, South Fork Church of Christ
We would like to thank you for your efforts to make the minister hiring process simple and well defined. The congregation here has not been through the minister hiring process in sixteen years and had little experience left for trying to do so. We ...
Jim Burdette - Elder, Frederick Church of Christ
I was grateful for the guidance of Minister Match through the complex and time-intensive search process. John was responsive, supportive and knowledgable. Communication was excellent and flexible around my availability as a volunteer search ...
Brandon Clark - Youth Minister Search Committee Chairman, Mesa Church of Christ
Minister Match connected me with a church, had the details for every aspect of the process already taken care of, and communicated well. It was a very easy process, and now I am a youth minister in Miami, Florida!  I was very impressed with the ...
Sam Wilson - Youth Minister, Sunset Church of Christ

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ABC Blocks

Your congregation has just hired a minister, and it seems like they are the perfect fit. Congratulations! There is one more step to the process, though, and it is just as important as the process of finding the right minister. You might have heard people refer to how the “first hundred days” of someone’s job usually sets the tone for their entire career with that organization. The same is true with ministers. Just as your congregation is going through a major transition, so is your new minister. The first few months of a job are a stressful time, and it is the job of the elders and search committee to help your new minister through their transition.

We refer to this as the “On-Boarding Stage.” Since the “first hundred days” is so important to the rest of a minister’s career with your congregation, we believe this stage is one of the keys to reducing minister turnover in the church. In this post, we want to talk about a few of the things that a new minister needs from their congregation during this transition period. We will refer to them as the ABC’s of the On-Boarding Phase.