Another great reason to pause between pastoral tenures is that, if the previous pastor left after a fruitful 10 years, say, still looking to the people like a silver bullet, the congregation may wish to replicate him/her. However the outgoing pastor may have left because they felt that they had made their contribution and saw that the needs of the church, looking ahead, were not needs they were equipped to meet.
So looking for a repeat of the previous pastor threatens to fail on two counts. Firstly, if the previous pastor arrived in 2008, then looking for another-pastor-the-same would be to recruit for the needs of 2008 and not for today. Secondly, if the congregation replicates the previous pastor then they will have appointed somebody who will find that the needs of the church looking ahead are needs they are not equipped to meet – if they really are wired the same way as the previous pastor.
This is why it is helpful for the church to pause between pastors and allow an intentional interim to work through with the people to a new awareness of today’s needs, today’s missional environment, the make-up of today’s congregation and be absolutely sure that the selection criteria match 2018 and not 2008.
Assessing the season in life of their people is another vital aspect of the kind of time-telling a pastoral search team will need to do. Perhaps in 2015 the congregation had 10 families who were pioneers, generators and leaders of ministry. 3 years later the newly married couple may now have a baby. The couple with one child may now have two and a baby. The family with young kids may now have teenagers with Sunday morning sport and three evenings a week booked for team commitments. The mum who was a teacher may now have the greater responsibility of a department leader etc. So those people may now be needing to receive ministry rather than be leading ministries.
The culture and behaviour of the group has shifted. Patterns of participation and attendance will have altered. And the ministries those people previously generated may lose the collaborative all-in-this-together vibe and become more consumerized. However, while the culture may shift people’s values will probably remain the same. The people will still want the collaborative family-feel they had before even if they can’t be the ones to generate it. This means that the pastor heading up those ministries, or the senior pastor, is now looked to to generate a culture and vibe that was previously generated by 20 people.
In short the leadership and pastoral needs of the church can shift dramatically in a relatively short time. These changes will directly impact both the PD and selection criteria for any new pastor.Not to take a moment to “tell the time” in that way, or simply to wheel out the PD from 3 years ago clearly is going to miss the mark.
That’s how recruiting for 2015 in 2018 can produce a surprisingly significant mismatch. If a search team reads the time wrong it can significantly miscalculate how much leadership energy the new pastor can bank on from among the people – and misdiagnose what shape the new pattern of ministry will need to take.
To recruit the right pastor for the right time requires us first to tell the right time! By enabling a congregation to take a time-check, an interim consultation can pay great dividends, best setting the church up to meet the needs and callings of the hour.