Three Important Facts You Need to Know About the Search for our Next Minister!
- Fact 1: OUUC follows UUA rules for calling a settled minister. The first step is to choose seven members of the congregation to serve as the Ministerial Search Committee (MSC).
- Fact 2: The Board, Leadership Development Committee, and the Transitions Team will call all members between January 18-February 15th. Members will be asked to nominate other members to be on the MSC.
- Fact 3: If you are interested in being considered for the MSC, you need to self-nominate by February 1st by sending an email to email@example.com.
Want more detailed information about the three facts? Read on:
More Info Fact 1: OUUC follows UUA rules for calling a settled minister. The first step is to choose seven members of the congregation to serve as the Ministerial Search Committee (MSC). That committee has delegated authority from the congregation to recruit candidates, using the UUA system where UU ministers make themselves available for review, interviews, and speaking in a neutral pulpit in the Puget Sound area. The MSC will choose one final candidate to present to OUUC. The congregation will vote on whether or not to call the minister after hearing two sermons and engaging with the minister in small group settings.
More Info Fact 2: The Board, Leadership Development Committee, and the Transitions Team will call all members between January 18-February 15th. Members will be asked to nominate other members to be on the MSC. The questions include: Who knows the history and culture of the church, whether old or new to the congregation? Who can represent the whole congregation well, to include children? Who would have “no ax to grind”? What are the qualities needed for someone to serve on the MSC? Who works well with others? Who has been active in the congregation and is a responsible leader and participant? Who would understand the strengths and weaknesses of OUUC and be able to relate that to potential ministers? Who do you trust to work on behalf of the congregation?
After February 20th, the nominees will be called and asked to fill out an application. A committee made up of members from the Leadership Development Team, the Transition Team and the Board of Trustees will create a list of final candidates taking into account gender balance, age balance, skill sets, and availability. The Board will appoint the 7 member Search Committee from that list.
More Info Fact 3: If you are interested in being considered for the Ministerial Search Committee, you need to self-nominate by February 1st, by sending an email to Melanie Ransom, chair of the Leadership Development Committee. As far as actual duties, review the information about Search Committee Membership from the UUA Settlement Handbook.
SEARCH COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIP*
Introduction: No choice is more important to the future of a Unitarian Universalist congregation than its call of a minister. A thorough, uncorrupted, and mutually respectful search process is the essential first step in the hoped-for partnership of lay and ordained leaders. For both minister and congregation, the process is strenuous, exciting, and informative. It can also be frustrating and discouraging. But generations of lay leaders and ministers testify that such a process, followed well, richly repays the time and effort it requires.
Crucial to the quality of the outcome is the quality of the ministerial search committee. Selection is all!—or almost all. This group must invest hundreds of hours in getting to know each other, the congregation, and their ministerial prospects well, so they can make the best choice not for themselves as individuals but for all. No wonder search committee members often become lifelong friends!
Search committees do not simply choose among ministers; they engage with ministers in thoughtful, mutual exploration. For ministry to be effective, both the congregation and the minister must sense a “call,” a felt conviction that this match is right for both. Ministers and search committees are ideally not adversaries in this quest, but partners.
Desired Attributes of Search Committee Members: All members of the search committee should be:
- Known and respected by others in the congregation
- More strongly committed to the congregation as a whole than to any subgroup
- Well informed about the demands and time requirements of search committee membership. Members should promise to attend every meeting (including an all-day retreat in May) and to give about 250-400 hours over the coming year
- Balanced by sex, age, interests, and tenure of membership to reflect the diversity of the congregation. Major areas of church life such as religious education, social action, property management, finance, and music should be represented by participants, not partisans
- Balanced by attributes: organizational ability, broad theological awareness, computer skills
- Not paid members of the church staff
- Pledged to conduct a search that is fair and nondiscriminatory with respect to race, color, disability, sex, sexual orientation, age, and national origin
- Committed to maintain confidentiality and to seek consensus
- Capable of both self-assertion and compromise
- Not prone to extreme reactions to ministers. The previous ministers’ strongest supporters or opponents are rarely the best choice
- Well suited to teamwork: a search committee is no place for Lone Rangers!
Search Committee’s Roles and Responsibilities: The committee analyzes and allocates responsibility for all that must be accomplished, decide upon its procedures to safeguard the identities of ministers it will consider, develops decision-making guidelines, and begins its work. The committee should assign specific jobs to each member. A list of roles to adapt to each committee’s needs and talents follows:
Chair: The chair is responsible for the care and feeding of the committee, and for holding the vision. The chair needs to enjoy keeping a finger on the pulse of everything and to be easy to reach, not terrified by conflict, and able to use tough love if necessary. The chair convenes meetings and is the primary communicator with the board, the Transitions Office, the MSR, and the District Executive
Packet Editor and Distributor: The editor needs to have an artistic flair, love compiling material, and be confident of creating a fair and attractive picture of the congregation. In distribution mode, the editor sends copies of the packet to prospective candidates, receives and renews returned ones, and receives candidates’ packets and creates the means by which all committee members see them in a timely fashion.
Arranger: The arranger sets up preaching dates in area churches for pre-candidates and sees that everyone has all the information they need. Flexibility and creativity are required since the arrangements are for a minister unknown with a church not known whose administrator (also not known) wants to get the Sunday morning schedule squared away before the details can be known. The arranger also looks to the care and comfort of the pre-candidates (and later the candidate) from the moment they arrive until they leave. Who will meet them? Where will they stay? Where/when will they eat? Who will drive them where? What will a tour include? No detail is too small to influence a candidate’s first impression of the congregation.
Reference Checker: The checker designs some type of instrument to chart the information the committee wants about each candidate and devises a way to communicate findings to the committee.
Secretary: The secretary communicates with the prospective candidates, keeping them informed of the committee’s process. The secretary is also the primary communicator to the congregation of the committee’s progress, by a regular newsletter column, a well-designed and often-updated bulletin board, and other means. The secretary also keeps detailed notes and minutes of committee meetings. The amount of communication needed is inestimable; the secretary needs to like doing it.
Survey coordinator: The surveyor needs to have a passion for learning who the congregation is and what their wants/needs/hopes/desires are, and a vision of how to do it. The surveyor will create the survey instrument and survey events capable of eliciting a thoughtful, reflective, and copious response in a form that will effectively communicate that response to the prospective candidates.
Treasurer: The treasurer creates the budget, keeps expenses on track, and makes sure committee members account for expenses and are reimbursed in a timely fashion. The treasurer reports to the Finance Committee, but in such a way that the identities of the ministers under consideration are not revealed. The treasurer often heads up the negotiating team.
Confidentiality: Confidentiality is not secrecy. The committee must publicize the process it is following and how far along it is at every point. At the same time, the committee must keep confidential both the names and the locations of the ministers under consideration and the details of committee business. There are several reasons for the rule of confidentiality:
- Ministers settled in a congregation may not have told their present parishioners that they are contemplating a move. These parishioners are entitled to hear the news from their own minister at the appropriate time. To “leak” a minister’s name can undermine his or her ability to serve the present congregation, and will almost certainly damage a committee’s chances of attracting that potential candidate.
- When the identities of unsuccessful applicants are known, it heightens the competitive aspect of the search process. This hurts collegial feeling among ministers and (when neighboring congregations compete for the same minister) also can create hard feelings among congregations.
- It is harder to resolve differences among the members of a search committee when factions of the congregation are looking over its shoulders. It is better to resolve differences in private.
Conclusion: Serving on a ministerial search committee is perhaps one of the most important lay leadership roles in the life of a congregation. The congregation entrusts the members to hear their hopes and concerns about a new settled minister; to analyze and clearly articulate feedback from members in a manner that conveys an accurate and compelling picture of the congregation to candidates; and to commit wholly and reverently to the effort.
*Excerpts from the SETTLEMENT HANDBOOK for Ministers and Congregations , published by the Transitions Office, Unitarian Universalist Association, January 30, 2013