Ministering to Ministers: Part 1

My friend who first asked me about what a church can do to help a minister that led me to write, “What a Preacher Wants,” is our guest writer today.

We thought it would be great to write from two different perspectives, I from the perspective of a preacher and he from perspective of an elder and leader preparing for a minister to join the church.

“I thought we were done?!”

It’s the morning after, and I thought that I would have a huge weight lifted from my shoulders and the collective shoulders of my fellow shepherds. However, I woke up early again this morning with that same uneasy feeling. I am getting ahead of myself, so allow me to back up and give some background to this ongoing story.

I serve as one of the shepherds of a medium sized body of believers, and we have been searching for a Preaching Minister for the past several months . . . ten months to be exact. It has been a challenging, exhausting, time consuming task, with countless hours of planning, prayer, interviews, studying resumes and personal theology statements, followed with a lot more prayer! We have involved the entire congregation in the process, which is a very good thing, but it calls for a lot of patience and grace on everyone’s part. Fortunately we have had a wonderfully diverse group on the search team and we have a wonderful ministerial staff that have helped tremendously in the tasks that come with not having a preaching minister and a year-long minister search. Overall, it has been a very good experience. We haven’t always agreed with each other, the comments from the body weren’t always palatable or easy to read, and we found out that what the body was searching for was impossible. I had several friends ask, “So, what are you guys looking for?” With my best straight face I answered, “It’s real simple, we are looking for a young preacher, with lots of experience, one that is deeply spiritual and loves to study for hours. He has to be able to get in people’s homes and lives, be extremely relational and outgoing, and one that enjoys being by himself in meditation and deeply guided by spiritual practices. Do you know anybody?”

We were looking for someone that does not exist!

We had a wonderful response from 27 men who I believe love the Lord and want to serve a congregation and grow somewhere. We had a much-anticipated meeting with the search team, ministers and shepherds last night, which resulted in a wonderful, and we believe Spirit led, unanimous decision. We have had the difficult conversations, we have done the congregational self-study, we have sought and received advice, and we have found a fantastic couple to join us in the ministry here. So, that’s it right? As one of the team members said last night before we prayed a final prayer of sanctification over this decision, “We are done right?”

That’s where I find myself this morning, the morning after. I have full confidence that we have followed the leading of the Holy Spirit, to the right couple for this place and this time with this flock. That was not the cause of my panic attack. My cold sweats were the result of the sudden realization that we are not done. We can’t simply make the call, offer the position, come to agreement and get him and his wife moved into the community. Don’t we owe him more than that?

I am left with more questions than I had five months ago. What does this person that I really only know by paper, a few meals together, Skype conversations, phone calls, resume and listening to one sermon, bring to our present congregation. How can we best integrate him and his wife into the existing body of Christ, one that has a history and DNA? One that has a life and a story that he doesn’t know or understand completely? How do we help him fit in while giving him the grace and room to use his own gifts and present his own values and thoughts?

Don’t I (we) have a responsibility to be good ministers to our new minister?

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