So you got the invitation from the Search Committee to be their candidate!! CONGRATULATIONS!!
The next step is to meet the whole congregation during the ordeal we call Candidating Week.
Soon, or already, you will receive/have received a bewildering schedule for the week that contains about four times as many appointments and obligations as you would have in the normal course of your work, and that’s insane. DO NOT ACCEPT THIS SCHEDULE AS A DONE DEAL.
Get out your red pen and get to work. Create a reasonable schedule that allows for you to meet the important groups and people you need to meet, NOT all of the people the Search Committee has determined you ought to meet. Remember that they’re excited, you’re a hot ticket, and they have never done this before. They are hearing from all kinds of eager folks who are anxiously trying to get some time with you. These are their friends, fellow church leaders, and those to whom they are accountable in this work. Of course they want to try to please their constituents! Don’t freak out.
But remember: the Search Committee, leaders and congregation can tag team through this process. When an individual or team gets exhausted, they can take a break and reappear a few days later.
You are one person.
YOU ARE ONE PERSON.
Not only are you one person, you are one person who most likely has another congregation to get back to at the conclusion of this candidating experience; a congregation with whom you want to do a good and grounded leave-taking process. It is insensitive and inconsiderate for congregations in search to assume that any clergyperson can travel a short or long distance to meet dozens to hundreds of new people over the course of one week, have multiple important conversations per day, research their new geographical area and do house hunting and possibly school visits for children, craft two worship services with church staff and lay liturgists, meet and work with administrative staff who may also have an official or unofficial say in the selection process, check in with local colleagues and then return to their current ministry setting anything but completely drained.
YOU ARE ONE PERSON, and you are an ordained spiritual leader. Now is the time for you to model reasonable expectations and to lead by example. In a non-anxious way, simply respond to the schedule with your revisions in a spirit of collaboration and conversation. Don’t be defensive; remember, the Search Committee may be working off a boilerplate schedule they got from All Souls Workaholic Overachievers Church. So you simply say, “I think we can combine the religious education committee and worship team meet-and-greet on Thursday afternoon, and then I’ll be meeting with a realtor at 3PM. I’ll plan to be back in the office on Friday at 9:00 AM because my family and I will be having dinner together that night.”
“The board meeting will be a big one, and I’m going to be scheduling a meeting immediately afterward with the chair and the treasurer to go over some questions I have about the Letter of Agreement, so the potluck with the choir won’t work for that day. How about if I come to their rehearsal a half hour early so we can chat then?”
You’re the professional. They are not in this profession and are making their best, most educated guess as to what a good Candidating Week looks like. Show, guide, converse, teach. Discuss. If there’s a retired or active pastor on the team that put together the schedule who pushes back, smile and red flag that. That person has just identified themselves as a competitor, not a congregant.
This is an opportunity for you to find out what kind of relationship the congregation wants to have with their minister: collaborative and considerate, spiritually mature, supportive? Or resentful and demanding, with grumbling when you suggest reasonable alternatives to an unrealistic, barely survivable schedule?
You will learn a lot. Assume the best intentions of everyone and be ye not afraid. You got this.
Kiss of peace, PB