The BU has a system, led by the National Settlement Team, which seeks to help ministers find churches to settle in and churches find a new minister. Recently the church here has been looking for a new Associate Minister; a process which I’ve found far more stressful than I expected. And it is not over yet!
I suspect that some of the reasons for the stress include:
1. The time the process takes. I wrote a blog entry in November last year when we started noting it was stressful then. One year later we may be getting to the end but we are still at it.
2. The dynamics of team. I suspect that finding an Associate is harder work than finding a sole pastor because in addition to the dynamics of the church congregation and the character of the potential minister there is the complication this person needs to work with and complement me.
3. Nuances of debate. Because I’m part of the church I’m aware of all the ups and downs of conversations not just the edited highlights that you get to hear if you are the minister.
4. Congregational involvement. It is a necessary part of the process that early discussions are held in confidence but there is a tension. The church leadership team do not want to put someone forward until they are confident the person is right but this means the congregation have to make up their minds after a couple of short meetings. Church size is undoubtedly a factor, the smaller the church the easier it is for everyone to be involved in the process and the larger the church the more important it is for the congregation to trust a group to discern what is right. The complication is getting the right balance.
I know that the National Settlement Team work hard to make appropriate nominations (and by and large do a good job) but is it possible to create a better system? And while papal decree by the BUGB head of ministry might produce quick (and knowing Paul good) decisions it is a non starter. So here are some suggestions:
i) As well as the current vacancies list there should be a similar list of ministers where those who wish can write a short 150 word extract about themselves, so that churches can look at a wider range of names.
ii) The possibility of informal conversation days where a church could invite a number of potential ministers to visit to learn more about the church. After these informal conversations ministers could indicate if they wish their name to be considered by the church and the church could then pursue any they felt were right for the church.
iii) Clearer expectations by everyone. I suspect I’ve been my own worst enemy in the process but clarity of expectations in the church, clarity about the process and its speed and clarity about the sort of person best suited to the role all make for fewer problems. It would help if every church conducted the process in a similar way and in a similar time frame but I doubt the idea would catch on!
Most changes have some potential downsides but perhaps it is time to revisit the settlement process.