The Relational Search Process: Part 4 – The Cheerleading Squad

by Tim Woodroof

One of the most interesting serendipities of a relational search process is the transformation of the search committee into a cheerleading squad.

The committee has spent hours with the candidate and gotten to know him and his family intimately. They have spent hours with other candidates and know how the final candidate stacks up to his “competition.” They have spent hours discussing the church and its needs and the fit of the candidate to this church at thistime for this mission. And—of all the candidates they have interviewed—the committee has recommendedthis candidate to their elders as the man they believe God is calling to their church.

What happens to the committee when the elders agree, when the church agrees, this candidate should become their next minister? The committee doesn’t simply dissolve when this determination is made. The relationship they’ve developed with the candidate doesn’t just go away. Rather, their job description changes. Instead of interviewing candidates, the committee becomes an advocate for their candidate. In place of assessing the skills and fit of candidates, the committee promotes the skills and fit of their candidate. They are no longer examiners … they become cheerleaders.

A Change in Role

This transformation happens quite naturally. Committee members believe they have made a good choice and have discerned God’s will. They are already fans of their new minister. Of course they’re going to cheer the horse they’ve bet the farm on.

But the transformation must also happen intentionally. The search committee should be invited and coached into the role of cheerleader—especially for the first year of a minister’s tenure. They should take all the time they’ve spent and sacrifices they’ve made and affection they’ve developed and pour it into supporting and encouraging their “designated hitter” as he begins his ministry.

Think of the role committee members could play in:

  1. Getting the church excited about welcoming the new minister
  2. Helping the minister and his family move and settle in to their new home and community
  3. Showing hospitality to the minister and his family during those first formative months … opening their homes and deepening their relational ties
  4. Introducing the minister to key people in the congregation, community, and churches in the area
  5. Acquainting the minister with the assessments they’ve conducted on the congregation, community, and kingdom … their work on the history of the church
  6. Familiarizing the minister with the peculiarities of the church: personalities, culture, traditions, expectations

In these ways (and others), the search committee can be extraordinarily helpful to the minister they have invited into the heart of their church.

There is one other way they can support the new minister, however, that may be the best contribution they have to offer.

In Defense of Ministers

Because of the relational process they have just experienced, search committee members have been invited backstage to the ongoing drama of ministry life. They understand some of the pressures and stresses placed on ministers. They’ve heard stories about expectations and demands. They realize how critical churches can be of their ministers and how hurtful such criticism can be. They recognize that no matter how hard ministers try, how long they work, or how much they do, someone will always be disappointed with and disapproving of them.

And this new perspective—the view from the minister’s standpoint—often results in a group of people who function not just as cheerleaders, but as cheerleaders with an attitude! Where the new minister is concerned, they are unabashedly biased. They don’t pretend to be neutral or objective. They are for the new minister. They stand in defense of the new minister. And they actively counter the criticisms that will arise in every church about the new minister.

They are momma bears guarding their cub. They send the message, “If you want to say something critical about our minister, don’t talk to me.” They speak up rather than staying silent. They are watchful and protective. They are willing to risk long-standing relationships in the church in order to safeguard the new relationship developing between the minister and the church.

You might assume there is no need for the committee to take on that role—elders and other staff members would willingly step into the breach. But the truth is that shepherds and staff, who may have held leadership positions for years, are caught in a web of relationships. They have their own constituencies. They have their own critics. They are rarely in a position to be deaf, dumb, and blind to criticisms of the minister by church members.

Search committee members, on the other hand, are perfectly positioned to do exactly that! They aren’t required to meet some standard of objectivity and even-handedness. They don’t have to be neutral. They can afford to cheer for “their guy” with abandon.

Ministers need people like that. People who are in their corner. People who are on their side. When committee members become such people, they just might make their best and most appreciated contribution.

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