The graphic here shows, from the bottom up, the process of searching for and calling a new pastor. Let’s define the terminology behind the steps pictured there:
Candidates for Pastor of EPC: Known as Ministers of Word and Sacrament (or Teaching Elders), candidates for this position, with very few exceptions, hold a bachelors degree and a Masters of Divinity. As part of their ordination credentialing in the PC(U.S.A.), they will have gone through background checks, psychological evaluation, career counseling, professional formation, reference checks and examination by each presbytery they have served in (if they have) including Grace Presbytery if they should be EPC’s candidate.
Mission Study: This is what you are currently working on. Jim Mahon, Ken Richardson, and Rick Thompson are the initial members of the task force working on this project. This document will include information about the church’s history and mission as well as data about the community around EPC. Pictures and descriptions of activities of the church will also be in this document. Your mission study will need to be approved by Grace Presbytery before you can proceed with electing a Pastor Nominating Committee.
PNC (Pastor Nominating Committee): This is the search committee from EPC sent to identify a candidate to present to the congregation. Like other officers at EPC, the congregation votes on this committee’s makeup and will vote on the eventual candidate. Grace Presbytery will examine and approve the committee’s eventual candidate as well. In our system, the session is not involved in the call process of a new pastor. That relationship is established as a three way call of the congregation, candidate, and the presbytery.
MIF (Ministry Information Form): Formerly known as the CIF, this is essentially a church’s resume but it is more lengthy than a resume. It will contain much of the content of your mission study approved by Grace Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry. This form is filed both with Grace Presbytery and with the Church Leadership Connection at the denominational headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky for matching.
PIF (Personal Information Form): This is essentially a candidate’s resume but it is more lengthy than a resume. It will contain resume content, inventories of skills and preferences, and answers to questions about the candidate’s successes, failures, and calling. The form is approved by the candidate’s current presbytery and the Church Leadership Connection in Louisville and filed for matching.
Discerning and Interviewing: The longest period will be the time it takes to read through and review all the PIFs your PNC receives. The second longest period will be the time it takes to set up and engage in interviews over the phone or online meeting platforms culminating with in person interviews.
How much will this cost? Your PNC will need a healthy budget to do its work. There will be expenses around producing and mailing materials as well as paying for flights, lodging, and meals for the candidates who come for an in person interview. The church will also need to pay moving expenses for the pastor-elect. For this reason, your continued commitment to the church’s budget is essential.
What happens at the congregational meeting? Once the congregation votes by secret ballot to approve a candidate at the eventual congregational meeting, the candidate will be invited to formally accept the call. The final vote count (but not names) will be shared with the pastor-elect. Candidates and the church can exit the process with each other at any time and this isn’t unusual.
How long will this take? The current average timeline for the process of searching for a new pastor in our denomination is 18 months. From what I see of EPC, I expect that timeline to be average or sooner but predicting the Spirit is never a wise exercise!
How will the transition from interim pastor to installed pastor occur? The affirmative vote by the congregation will serve as the transitional pastor’s minimum 30 days notice. Extensions to an interim’s service with you would occur at the request of the pastor-elect, by invitation of the session and with the agreement of the transitional pastor. Most of the time this happens because the pastor-elect needs time to find a home and make arrangements to move or allow a child to finish a school year where they are. Often, a pastor-elect will begin work on site before being installed by the presbytery. After a short time of planning an installation service, the pastor-elect will be installed by Grace Presbytery in a service at EPC. The pastor-elect plans this service in coordination with Grace Presbytery. Usually the congregation plans a reception following the service.