Now is the time to think about how you want to present yourself to the personnel committee. What plans should you make to ensure this meeting goes as well as possible?
Before your meeting:
Carefully consider what you will wear? Though the protocol is clear – this is not an interview for a job – to the members of the introductory committee, it will feel as if they are interviewing you. So, dress like you are going to an interview: Business attire, look your absolute best.
Be on your best behavior. Sometimes we can react to our own nervousness; try not to be overly formal or too casual. Intentionally play to your strengths. Neither be self-deprecating nor self-promoting: People will not be comfortable listening to either.
Be prepared to make a brief presentation. Pastors who are unprepared tend to allow their nerves to take over and they talk too much, giving their whole life stories. While the committee will find this fascinating, I think a wiser strategy is to carefully prepare two statements and then ask them questions.
Prepare two statements, each not to exceed one piece of paper, double spaced 12-point font. (That’s about two minutes and thirty seconds to read one page, but do not read it.) By writing them out and understanding the time you have to speak, you will help yourself say what needs to be said and avoid what needs to stay unsaid.
- Prepare a statement of your call to ministry: Why do you feel God asked you to prepare yourself to lead a congregation?
- Second, prepare a statement about what you have accomplished in the previous places you have been in ministry. List one or two highlights or accomplishments that you are proud of for each location.
Check with your superintendent about the agenda for the meeting. Some Superintendents may ask you to prepare a devotion for the meeting. Make sure you are clear about the expectations and prepared to meet them.
Finally, as you prepare, remember this meeting isn’t really about you. For the committee, this meeting is about their church, which they love. They want to make sure you can be trusted to be the pastor of their church. Imagine that you are a stranger and you show up on their doorstep and ask for the keys to drive their car. The issue isn’t about like or love: The issue is trust.
As you prepare for the interview, keep this clearly in mind: It is not about ME. It is about trust. I have to prove to them that they can trust me.
Prepare yourself. Prepare your presentation. Go with confidence. Be positive.
At the Introductory Meeting – Pre-meeting
If it is possible to arrive on site a bit early, I think there is a real advantage to meet with the current pastor and lay leader for a quick tour of the buildings and grounds. This will accomplish four things:
- Be aware of the current pastor’s disposition during this meeting. Is the pastor happy or unhappy about leaving? As he/she talks about the church and building, is there any tension or disappointment in his/her tone? This is not a time to talk about these issues, but it will give you an indication of the general temperament.
- Likewise, how does the lay leader seem to work with the pastor: Is this a positive relationship or is there some tension? Would you guess the lay leader is happy or sad to see the pastor leave now. Will this lay leader be happy or unhappy to work with you?
- How do the pastor and lay leader feel about the property? Is there a sense of pride or resignation about the condition of the church? Are there things they would like to see changed? Are there things that have recently been changed, enhanced, created, updated, etc.? If there are new things in which they take great pride, make a note of that and be sure to praise this as you meet with the committee as a whole.
- While you are on tour, if there are still items that need to be addressed between the committee and the superintendent (salary negotiations, housing issues, vacation dates, etc.), these should be taken care of and agreed to so the committee will be prepared to meet with you at the agreed-upon time, with all those issues decided.
As the meeting begins and everyone is still standing, take the time to greet each person with a handshake. If possible, as you are introduced to them, repeat their names. People like to hear their names, and it makes it easier for you to remember their names if you speak them. If you have someone attending with you, ask them ahead of time to write down the names of everyone around the room as you are greeting them. When you sit down, he/she can give the page to you for your benefit. As the meeting progresses, try to call people by name.
When you are called to make your presentation, take the next five minutes to make your two presentations: Your call to ministry and your pastoral history and accomplishments. Do this in a firm controlled voice and be as humbly positive as possible.
When you finish, rather than asking for questions, ask the committee to tell you about them and their church:
You might ask:
Could we all share how we came to be at this church?
When did you join? Who was the pastor then?
Why did you decide to join this church?
What was the most fun you’ve ever had at this church?
What was the most painful experience you’ve ever had at this church?
What can you tell me about our church as we begin our ministry together?
What are your hopes and dreams for our church?”
This moves the conversation away from you and on to the issues that they really want to address which is their hopes for their church. This also shows that you are coming to serve them and you want to know about them. This is what they want to hear.
Pitfalls to avoid
As people talk about the issues at the church, they may try to draw you into those issues to see where you stand. I want to encourage you to avoid saying anything about what you might do when you arrive. If you are pressed to share your views, be very careful in answering. Often such questions are designed to place you in one of two opposing camps. You don’t want half the congregation aligning against you before you arrive.
Nail down the dates:
At the end of the meeting, there should be agreement about five transition events. For each event be clear about who is responsible to make it happen:
- Announcements at each church on the same day
- Day the appointment is effective
- The first Sunday you will work
- The day the office is available to move into
- The day the parsonage will be available to move into (If you will live there)
Be clear with the superintendent who will close the meeting and who will pray. I like to pray at the close of the meeting, but sometimes the superintendent likes to be in charge. I like to pray because it tells the committee that I plan to lead, and I plan to lead by asking for God’s blessing. It sets the stage for things to come.
Pray for God to bless the church, to bless the pastor who is moving, to lead you as you prepare to move here and be their new pastor.
Again, go around the room, shake hands with everyone, call them by name and assure them you look forward to working with them when you arrive.
Copyright 2016 – Steve Petty