17 September 2012

The Call: 2012 Edition

As you know, well most of you I suppose, I accepted a new call to be the pastor of Judson Memorial Baptist Church; I started the last week of July.  I would like to share how the call process has evolved and changed in just a few short years.  Change has taken place quite rapidly - which is saying something for churches.  As a colleague has said, if the 1950s come back, we (churches) are ready for them!

1.  There are no more letters!  Out of the 50 or so congregations that reached out to me only 3 or 4 used actual letters, on paper.  Of the ones that did send out actual letters, one actually sent a typed (from a type writer) letter.  Which touched my heart on so many levels but also scared me to no end; I did not apply to that one.  The disappearnce of the letters means that the process now is...

2.  Faster.  I cannot believe how fast a church will either say they either want to date or move on to another.  If the congregation really knows what they are looking for this is a good thing but few do.  Without an extended courtship, it is hard to make up your mind.  But then again, they can find out a whole lot more about you due to...

3.  The World Wide Web, the information superhighway, search committees can find out a whole lot about you: sermons, articles, pictures, facebook, twitter, mentions.  And you can find a whole lot about the congregation.  And thanks to...

4. Skype.  I couldn't get over how many search committees employed skype as an interview tool.  For the record I had never used skype, heard of it but never used it.  So I learned the hard way, the dos and donts of skype.  I am pretty sure one interview went south largely because the search committee looked at the top of my head for most of the interview rather than my face.  It took me a few skype calls to get comfortable with this form of communication.  I think I even looked at a tutorial on skype interviews, which I would suggest also.

5.  Utilize technology to your advantage.  I had my resume, essays, and sermons on google docs.  I put sermons on sound cloud and now you can upload longer videos to youtube.  Linkedin, I know people use this tool but I have no idea why people use it.  I tried it for a bit but it never took with me.

6.  The presence of classifieds online continue to be more prevalent.  I used The Chronicle of Higher Ed (using religious affairs/ministry search for campus ministry positions).  Higheredmin.org for other campus ministry jobs.  Christian Century classifieds of course, BaptistsToday classifieds, the search and call tab from the Alliance of Baptists, Seminary and Divinity School alumni job boards, regional baptist newspapers, regional church openings tabs on regional web pages (not all have this), the national job listing, and other sundry options.

7.  Look at the chess board.  All it takes is for one pastor to take another call to reset the entire chess board.  See what pastors have recently moved and then see what their previous churches are doing.

8.  I say all of this about technology but do not underestimate the value of networking human to human.  Invest in real relationships with human beings.  Call or write friends, colleagues, regional executives and talk about what you are looking for and what is available.

9.  Be bold and creative.  The job pool of applicants continues to shrink as does the availability of full-time ministry positions.  I did all kinds of nutty things: applied for the same job twice (they actually took a look at me for a second time and declared again that I was not what they were looking for), applied for jobs that were way over my head (what did I have to lose?), and when I finally found what I was looking for I was prepared to do flip-flops (luckily they were not necessary).

10.  Finally, when you find what you are looking for/when they find you be willing to take a pay cut, be willing to move to places you never entertained, be open to the movement of the Spirit.  Because a right fit & a right call with the right group of people will change everything.