Hi. My name is Lee and I’m a Regional Minister. I’ve been at this for almost sixteen years and three years in another region as an associate. There is a lot whirling through my office and head as the complex and sometimes lonely tasks the region has to face pop up. One of the ongoing excitements and stressors is helping congregations find pastors. There are some congregations that cannot seem to be pleased. They are looking for the perfect pastor. (A rough definition of the perfect pastor might be a 32 year old male; married to a wife who does not work outside the home but is raising 2.3 well behaved children and teaches Sunday school. He would be an outstanding preacher, a master of pastoral care, a skilled administrator, one who the youth adore and the older members of the congregation respect and trust. He would always put in at least 60 hour every week and only need $12,692.24 combined salary and housing to live on.) Perfect pastor does not exist or if he does I can’t find him.
When I talk to talk to Search Committees I try to help them look at their expectations and needs as a part of the Body of Christ. That can be difficult when they have already made up their minds or are stuck on finding the perfect pastor. I have something I say to them at the beginning of the orientation process and try to repeat it often.
The role of the Search Committee is to find the person whose gifts and graces for ministry best match the ministry needs of the congregation.
I advise Search Committees that when they are seeking an age, gender, race, or sexual orientation they have made a decision to leave the Holy Spirit out of the process. When one is doing sacred work and functions like a business hiring a CEO it cannot come to a good end. Too long in the church we have let prejudice and social convention drive our decisions. There are a lot of good men and women with outstanding gifts and graces for ministry out there that don’t get a chance to use those gifts to grow God’s church. Not too many years ago we might have been able to identify that group as women. Now one-half of the Disciple seminary students are female and there are twenty-six women in Virginia who are co-pastors or the pastors of congregations. That number continues to increase. It took some doors being opened for that to happen.
There are other doors not open to the leading of the Spirit. Most congregations are fearful or reject out of hand any ministerial profile that indicates a same sex partner or that the candidate might be gay or lesbian. Many talented ministers are being overlooked by closed minds. I know a number of outstanding pastors who are not heterosexual. They are who they are just as I am one who is tall and bald. God has created a wide diversity of people and we are all God’s children.
I am pained when sisters and brothers who are called to ministry are rejected because of being a child of God, created by God, living out who they are. We serve the church and the Kingdom best when congregations are served by ministers whose gifts and graces for ministry best match the needs of the congregation.