Keith W. Kress
I would like to address something that has concerned me for many years. I am talking about the way most of our congregations hire ministers. (This is not a criticism of the congregations I’ve served through the years). I have talked to many other ministers over the years, and I have yet to find one who likes the way we often hire ministers. I am afraid that we often look at ministry as just a job (both preachers and congregations). To me, ministry is not my job - it is my life! Perhaps I am old enough now to address this issue without offending anyone or incurring anyone’s wrath. If this helps the younger preachers among us, I will be thankful.
The usual manner in which ministers are hired begins with a congregation’s advertising the need for a minister. It is almost humorous to read some of the ads that I have seen over the years. One congregation advertised having a preacher’s home on a large lake in the south; another advertised being near a fancy golf course, etc. Some want a preacher just to preach; others want him to operate a church office; and still others have a “laundry list” a yard long of things he is to do. Perhaps we need to study the Word to see what tasks a preacher is to perform.
After advertising, resumes are received. Congregations always ask for references. However, in my experience, very few of the references I have given through the years have even been contacted. Why ask for them if we are not going to investigate them? After sorting through resumes, a few preachers are often contacted and scheduled to come and “try out.” Unfortunately, some resumes are never answered at all. Is that the way we want to be treated if we send a resume to a company? Those ministers who are chosen to try out are scheduled over a few weeks’ time, perhaps as long as two months. Finally, one is usually chosen by the congregation and hired.
I see several problems with this practice that affect both the congregation and the ministers and their families.
When we schedule several preachers, we put the preachers in a position where they feel as though they are competing against one another. I believe competition should be left to athletes, businesses, etc. The only competition in the church should be with Satan.
Preachers and their families often have to wait several weeks to find out whether or not they will be hired. This can be difficult, especially on younger families with children in school, who would usually like to move in the summer between school sessions. This involves a limited time period to find a congregation willing to hire them. My children are now grown, but it is often difficult for children to make moves, especially during the school year. We should always be conscientious about this.
After several weeks of listening to preachers try out, the members of a congregation can easily forget about the first ones who visited because they are not fresh on their minds.
When trying out several ministers, the congregation is almost always divided over their preferences. It is a rare situation when everyone wants the same preacher. Therefore, the preacher who is hired must immediately contend with some who did not want him. I have seen some serious divisions in congregations concerning who they wanted as their minister.
If a minister tries out and meets your needs and is a good fit for the congregation, why do you need a choice?
I certainly do not have all the answers, but I feel it would be better if congregations would truly do their homework (Check references, visit the preacher’s current congregation if nearby, and talk to members about him, etc.), bring in a man, try him out, evaluate him, then hire him or tell him no. Do it one at a time. This way, no one is waiting long periods, members are not divided, and I believe both the congregation and the preacher and family are well served. The way we have always done it might not be best. Let us all pray to God for His wisdom in all things. -2707 Bird St., Parkersburg, WV 26101. firstname.lastname@example.org
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