On any given day the Siburt Institute is working with about 75 churches that are looking for a minister. That number is in addition to the congregations that use our automated MinistryLink network service. And twice a month an eight-member team meets to review requests from search committees for names and resumes. So this Looking Team reviews information about the church and considers the job description that the search committee has sent. Then the deliberation and discernment begins. Who on our lists of ministers might be open to a new call? Who do we know who might be a fit for this congregation? And usually our team is able to identify several names to send to a search committee for their consideration.
However, in all of that process we are very aware of several important principles that we hold very dearly:
- Confidentiality. Collectively, the Looking Team knows hundreds and hundreds of ministers. We know how critical it is for a minister’s credibility and capacity to serve that any interest that the minister might have in leaving his or her present ministry be kept “under wraps.”
- Discernment. Our team spends countless hours in conversations with ministers. We are very sensitive to pay attention to the minister’s call to a particular congregation. The last thing we want to do is create a distraction for a minister doing a good work in a congregation. So we work hard at listening well to ministers. And in our conversations, we may well encourage a minister to stay put and continue the ministry at hand.
- Respect. Being called to congregational ministry is a tough task. And coming to the end of a season with a congregation can be extremely challenging. How do you look for a new “job” and not offend your current church? It is exceedingly difficult. So, as a “best practice,” we encourage churches that are searching for a new minister to take the initiative to contact a prospective minister—not the other way around. It makes it much easier for a minister to receive an invitation to consider a new work, then for a minister to initiate such a conversation.
- Counsel. One of the things that makes ministry a difficult life is the potential isolation that ministers face. To respond to that challenge, the Siburt Institute is committed to walk alongside ministers throughout their ministerial calling. It is one of the reasons why the institute and the Looking Team are willing to volunteer their time and wisdom to be in conversation with ministers about vocational matters. It is a role that we and our partners are uniquely positioned to do.
Whether you are a minister and are wrestling with the question of whether it is time to go, or if you are a church leader and faced with questions of ministerial transition, reach out to the Siburt Institute. Our calling is to assist you in your calling to serve the people of God well!
Dr. Carson Reed is Vice President for Church Relations at Abilene Christian University and Executive Director of the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry. He also serves as the Director for the Doctor of Ministry Program and holds the Frazer Endowed Chair for Church Enrichment in the Graduate School of Theology. Through the Siburt Institute, Carson does consulting work with congregations and church leaders across the country. His teaching and research centers on leadership, preaching, and issues surrounding faith and culture. Carson and his wife Vickie have been married for over 30 years and have four grown children.