Associate Pastor Search

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Search for Our Associate Pastor for Missions, Outreach, and Fellowship

The way we conduct pastoral searches in the Presbyterian Church is faithful, orderly, usually powerful, and, to some, seemingly tedious. “Why can’t it be just like any other job search? Just find someone and hire them!” Well, for one, we consider calling a pastor and installing him/her in ministry as part of our congregation as a spiritual process, not just trying to fill a post. It’s affirming a three-way sense of call between an individual, a congregation, and a Presbytery, so it’s best not to rush things. As you visit (and revisit) this page, know that this process isn’t just filling a job; it’s discerning the one whom God has already identified to serve as our next Associate Pastor.

In any pastoral transition, there’s need for a church to discern how the Spirit may be guiding the scope and shape of the congregation’s ministry. In our case, our Session discerned that some adjustments to our pastoral staff structure would be faithful and wise. Rev. Mark Lampley became Senior Associate Pastor for Formation and Care, and we were joined by Rev. Janna Preston as Minister for Congregational Care in a part-time ministerial position. Those adjustments shaped the scope of this Associate Pastor position.

The responsibility of seeking out the one whom God has already identified as our next Associate Pastor is entrusted to a group called a Pastor Nominating Committee, or in our case an Associate Pastor Nominating Committee (APNC). This group is nominated by the congregation’s Nominating Committee–yes, we have both a Nominating Committee and an Associate Pastor Nominating Committee–and then elected by the congregation. The APNC is called to discern the Spirit’s guidance regarding candidates as well as represent the congregation in this powerful process. The APNC is also in steady conversation with the Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry. Many PNCs and APNCs have testified to the prayerful, confusing, formative, illuminating, even frustrating process that a search can be at times, but over and over again they bear witness to the Spirit’s work throughout.

Depending on the circumstance, the PNC or APNC would conduct a “mission study,” as part of discerning the needs and callings of the whole church. In our case, much of this work was done in Step #2, but the APNC is responsible for reviewing and confirming this direction.

The APNC drafts a Ministry Information Form (MIF). A MIF is like an extended job description, but it focuses more on how a congregation senses its calling as Christ’s church and then how the Associate Pastor would feature into that calling. It is a glimpse and representation of the church that, in many instances, would be the first exposure a candidate may have with a congregation, so the MIF is written with great care. This document is then approved by the Session and by the Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry.

          Once a MIF is approved, it can be posted publicly, and conversations can officially begin between candidates and the APNC. This is the part of the process that usually takes the longest and requires the most discretion. (If you’re visiting or revisiting this page, you may wonder why the tracker has been on this step for so long!)
          That’s because, all within this one step, the APNC posts the MIF on the denomination’s Church Leadership Connection (something like a job posting board for pastoral calls), reaches out to pastoral contacts for potential candidates, invites candidates to submit a Personal Information Form (PIF), receives PIFs, evaluates PIFs, engages in initial contacts and conversations with candidates, gradually narrowing the focus to a few candidates, invites candidates to visit and/or visiting candidates in their own ministry contexts, and then at times realizing the need to circle back to other parts of the process.
          All this takes place under an umbrella of constant prayer, seeking the Spirit’s guidance, as well as great confidentiality. There’s only so much an APNC can appropriately share during this stage, because candidates may be discerning that God may or may not be calling him/her to our church, but also away from another setting. So if you don’t hear much during this stage, don’t worry. Your APNC is hard at work, and trust the process and the Spirit’s guidance!

Once an APNC has discerned that God has called an individual to ministry in our congregation, they “extend the call” to that person and confirm terms like start date, compensation, etc. The candidate then accepts or declines the call. In most cases, once a call has been accepted, it’s just a matter, albeit a serious one, of other groups affirming that call.

Once a candidate has accepted the call, he/she will appear before the Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry (COM). The COM is the group within our Presbytery entrusted with the responsibility of examining and welcoming potential new pastors into ministry. Think of it this way: we are connected in ministry and share in accountability with our Presbyterian brothers and sisters. We as a congregation share in the responsibility of ensuring devotion to Christ in heart, mind, and body, a firm grasp of and passion for Scripture, as well as a strong footing in the Reformed tradition. The last thing we would want is for someone to say, “Eh, whatever. Doesn’t matter anyway.”

Once a candidate’s call is approved by COM, the APNC asks the Session to call a congregational meeting, at which the APNC presents the candidate formally to the church for approval. This stage is usually when the process effectively “goes public.”
After a candidate is approved by the congregation, the candidate is examined before the Presbytery and, one hopes, received into membership in the Presbytery. (Interesting note: Pastors who are installed into ministry at a particular church are not actually members of that congregation, but of the Presbytery.)
Depending on the timing, sometimes a candidate may be approved to go into the ministry field even before reception into the Presbytery, since Presbytery meets quarterly and by this point there’s usually not need to prolong the process further.
After all of those decent and orderly steps, the candidate begins in shared ministry within the congregation, setting a date with the Presbytery for a Service of Installation and enjoying the blessings of pastoral ministry. 

UPDATES

July 2022: Associate Pastor Nominating Committee elected by congregation

June 2022: Rev. Janna Preston begins as Minister for Congregational Care

  • We are joined by Rev. Janna Preston, ordained in the Disciples of Christ tradition. She serves as our Minister for Congregational Care, a part-time ministerial position focusing on ministry with/for older adults and women’s ministries.

May 2022: Nominating Committee starts forming APNC

  • after receiving nominations from the congregation, the Nominating Committee discerns a group to present as our Associate Pastor Nominating Committee.

April 2022: Session Approves Adjust Pastoral Staff Structure

  • Rev. Mark Lampley to become Senior Associate Pastor for Formation and Care, overseeing our ministries for Christian Formation and Congregational Care.
  • Creation of part-time ministerial position for Congregational Care, with focuses on ministry with/for older adults and women’s ministries.
  • Creation of full-time installed Associate Pastor position for Missions, Outreach, and Fellowship.
  • Click Here for more details on this adjusted structure from The Tower in May 2022 (p. 5).