This post is only of interest to a small slice of the population: professional ministers seeking new calls in denominations where they and the congregations they are seeking have some choice in the matter.
Now that I have the attention of 20 of you, I have urgent information. Part of my role in my own current call is to read through Personal Information Forms (we call them PIFs in the Presbyterian Church USA) but they could also be called Search Forms, Resumes, etc. For the purpose of this post, I’ll just call them PIFs.
I read lots of them. I read PIFs for churches seeking new leadership. I read PIFs from seminarians getting ready to seek their first call. I read PIFs from seasoned pastors seeking their second, third, fourth, or tenth call. Here is what I’ve found:
- It’s essential that you have someone proofread for spelling and grammatical mistakes. Please. You are saying things you don’t want to say about yourself if your documents are full of misspellings and unnecessary apostrophes.
- Don’t be generic. You be you. Almost every pastor seeking a call will write essays lifting up their love for preaching/teaching/pastoral care/administration/mission. Imagine Nominating Committees receiving piles of essays all saying essentially the same thing. I’ve grown in my preaching. I’m told I’m a good Bible teacher. I have a heart for pastoral care. I find administration so satisfying. I’m excited by mission. What about you is unique and even quirky? Have you found community with a group of men who live under a bridge downtown? Have you ever worked with trafficked women? Do you have a particular compassion for men being released from prison? Playing with refugee children? Preaching in a mental hospital? Volunteering in an art class?
- Don’t seek a generic church. Know what you are looking for and seek out that church. Is it a congregation that shows up? Do they love their church staff? Do they use their building as a tool for community ministry? Let them know what you are seeking. Note: One of the tough situations is when you are tethered to a geographic location and you feel like you will take any position. What’s tough is that it shows. Churches want someone called to serve them. They don’t want a pastor who could serve anyone who can pay them. It makes me tired just thinking about it. Again, this is very tough because – if you are tied to a certain city/town – you have fewer choices. I still believe in call though. You can certainly be called to serve in the place where you currently live. But it will be a more difficult search.
- Don’t tell personal stories in a way that will make people feel uncomfortable. In your essays, don’t tell the story about that time you did a wedding and the mother of the bride choked on roast beef and died during the reception and you offered exquisite pastoral care. Nobody wants to imagine that.
- Be open to non-parish ministry. If you are searching and nothing is clicking, you can certainly do ministry in a coffee shop, in a taco truck, in a classroom, in a dentist office. Do that if you need income before The Spirit moves. God uses everything.
- Pray. How is your prayer life through this search? I always tell search committees that they need to start praying now for their new pastors because they are out there, possibly hearing God whisper in their ears that it’s time to move. And candidates need to be praying for the next people they’ll serve. God knows how much you need this new call. But keep talking about it with your Maker. It’s a sweet moment when you and and the people you will be serving meet each other and click.
The search for a new call or a new pastor is arduous work. But it’s also God’s work. It’s going to be okay. Be open to the unexpected.