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Screening Applicants for a Pastoral Position

  • 18 July 2017
  • Randy Wollf

Holding documentsYou’ve put the word out about your need for a pastor and now the resumes have started rolling in. Perhaps panic has begun to set in as you realize the daunting challenge of choosing the right one. How do you discern which candidates to seriously consider based on their resumes? Once you have a shortlist of preferred candidates, how do you decide which one to call to meet the rest of the church?

In my blog called Tips for Successful Pastoral Searches, I suggest several ways that search committees can set up a search process to succeed. In this blog, I will focus on one part of the process—the actual screening of candidates—and make recommendations around three levels of screening.

First Level – Résumés

For this level, I would encourage you to develop a list of key qualifications for the position based on the position description. Then, assign a value to each one (you may choose to weigh some qualifications more heavily than others). For example, you might assign a value of 5 points to having a seminary degree and 10 points to previous related pastoral experience.

As résumés come in, it is relatively easy to measure the candidate against what the group has already decided are the key metrics. Depending on the number of applications, each member of the search committee can assess each applicant (and then average the scores) or the committee chair can assign résumés to individual committee members (it’s helpful to have at least two people assess each applicant to minimize individual biases).

Sometimes, it’s easy for search committee members to get distracted by an outstanding or underwhelming part of a résumé. Using this approach helps committee members to objectively evaluate all the important pieces, producing a more holistic appraisal of a candidate’s suitability. 

Second Level – Assessments

Developing a Discipleship Approach in Your Church

  • 10 July 2017
  • Randy Wollf

Discipleship blueprintI often hear this question from church leaders: "How do we develop a discipleship strategy in our churches?" Here’s my attempt to answer that question.

First, let’s consider what discipleship is.

Discipleship is both relational and transformational. A disciple of Jesus is in a growing relationship with Jesus. Transformation occurs as the Holy Spirit renovates people’s hearts; godly character qualities grow (see Five Strategies for Growing Your Character blog); thoughts and actions become more God-honouring.

According to Dallas Willard, "Discipleship is the process of becoming who Jesus would be if he were you." This requires a close relationship (see John 15) that produces Christ-like fruit. 

Next, let's understand what disciple-making means. 

Disciple-making is helping people take next steps in their relationship with Jesus and obedience to Him.

In Real-life Discipleship, Jim Putnam suggests there are five spiritual stages: dead, infant, child, young adult, and parent. It is helpful to identify the stage in which someone is located so that we can come alongside them and help them move toward the next stage.

As we help people become more spiritually mature, it is helpful to think about doing so in six ways (these align with the Dimensions of Christian Leadership). We want to help people grow in their relationship with God, develop godly character qualities, understand and live out God's calling on their lives, develop strong relationships, learn how to serve well on a team, and maximize their gifts and abilities in living out their calling.

How then do churches position themselves for maximum discipleship?

In Developing a Strategic Pathway for Discipleship in Your Church, I suggest there are five layers of discipleship within the church: church culture, large group, small group, one-on-one, and individual. As we strengthen each layer, we will position our churches for more effective disciple-making. 

Anger: A Feast Fit for a King

  • 23 June 2017
  • Keith Reed

feastThe last time I heard a preacher speak on the topic of anger may have been the last time I made a confession about being angry. I’m not claiming my life has been free of anger since then nor am I pointing my finger at the pastors I’ve been listening to. I’m simply saying it’s been a long time. Long enough to wonder what it means to be angry. Long enough to admit that I rarely consider if my actions are prompted by anger.   

I know what frustration feels like. I’ve experienced the dreariness of disappointment and the misguidance of envy. But what about anger? What does that look and feel like?  

Throughout the Bible, anger is often paired with fire. Anger burns within someone and at times against someone. It is often ignited when needs or desires are threatened or when a person feels they have been treated unjustly. Anger can be sparked in an instant and it carries the potential for collateral damage.  

Some people claim anger is the culprit for their destructive actions, but this is a scapegoat that does not lead to a lasting solution. Furthermore, anger can be a catalyst for helpful change if it is applied constructively and with self-control. Wishing for anger to go away is not only unlikely, it could be unhelpful.  

Instances of anger spill off the pages of the Bible, and it is God Himself who is often described as angry. This tells us that anger is not sin. Anger, like every emotion, is neutral—it is neither positive or negative. The key is how a person chooses to respond to their feelings. The distinction between feelings and actions is the interpretative key to understanding and applying Ephesians 4:26: “In your anger do not sin” (cf. Ps 4:4). Our response makes all the difference.   

I believe one way we can resist lashing out in anger is to recognize how anger works. We are invited to indulge ourselves with little regard for others. We are coaxed to react in the moment with little consideration for the context. We are tempted to take the fire that is within us and spread it all around.  

Years ago, I came across a compelling image for anger that has stuck with me ever since. Most preachers don’t disclose the satisfaction that sinful behaviour promises to deliver, but Frederick Buechner isn’t like most preachers. His stories capture the candid experiences of a man who may have failed to control himself more often than some would care to admit. He is true to his subject because he is true to himself. If we do the same, I believe we'll see that anger often works the same way in our lives.