Recruiting Pastors in Seminary

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When I was in my final year of seminary in 2010, I had heard that churches weren't allowed to call a pastor until after she/he was approved as a candidate for ministry by Synod. Technically, this is followed. Call letters typically aren't sent until you are officially a candidate. But really ... no one follows this. There were students in my classes flying to Colorado and California, taking second and third interviews in March, and many students had their first call sealed up by April. Of course, many did not. Some churches still try to play by the "rules" and wait until The Banner comes out that summer. Only after looking at the pictures of candidates do they begin to think about calling a seminary student.

After thinking about this for a while, I think we should unleash the whole process. Honestly, I think our candidacy system needs to be overhauled in a big way (different post for a different day) because most candidates begin to panic by the fall if they have not received a call that summer. If they haven't received a call by the time the next batch of candidates come out ... despair sets in. Like I said though, different post for a different day.

My question here is this: Why not just lift this formality of candidacy and go look for a pastor? Why not just call three or four professors/staff (I recommend the Field Ed coordinator before the systematic theology professor) at the seminary and say, "Give me your top five names." Then, take a couple of elders along and go and have lunch with a few students. This is happening informally anyways, let's just call it what it is and level the playing the field for everyone. 

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John, just wondering what you are thinking of in forms of an overhaul? You list an idea at the end but I'm not sure that's any better than the system they have now. I don't see how that would fix the problem of having some candidates waiting for a call. I followed the rules pretty well and thought it went alright (but I write this from the safety of my church office.) 

The only sure-fire way I can think of is to switch to an appointment system, but that doesn't really fit our ecclesiology or theology of calling...called by God and the church. I'm open to suggestions though.

Sam, good to hear from you! I think there are some very concrete things that could happen. For example, the Evangelical Covenant Church holds regional "ministry fairs" where pastors and churches from the region meet. For example, if you wanted to be a pastor in Iowa. Minnesota, or South Dakota, then you would be paired with the regional director of the area, and they would be working with the vacant churches to find a match. Then, you would attend a "ministry fair" in the area in which every vacant church would attend as well. Before you know it, you have a match. Each student gets paired with a regional director who walks with you to find a call. The CRC hit on this when we had that fair at the seminary a couple of years ago. Pastor search committees of vacant churches came and met with students. But guess who organized it? CTS students. That's the problem. 

After thinking about this a lot, this is probably the best way forward. It wouldn't even require us lifting our synod ceremony which is the big concern for a lot of people. Your thoughts?

Great discussion, guys. You both have excellent points here.

However this plays out, I really do believe we need to maintain the theology of “calling” when it comes to issuing and accepting a “call.” Otherwise we're just dealing with getting a "job" out of seminary, with little vocational sensibility between, "Take, eat, remember and believe…” and, “You want fries with that?” Seriously, if we act on the same panic as the average University of Wherever MBA graduate – and use the same methods to secure employment following the completion of our (expensive) education program – are we approaching our "calling" with a proper trust in God's sovereignty? How can we expect others to do so if we do not?

I write this as one who did a bit of investigating into a call before my candidacy was solidified, engaged in some highly questionable “exhorting” on some unsuspecting believers, and participated in some other activities and speech that I may not reccommend to another seminarian. If the process can be improved, then let the brainstorming begin. John, are you up for an idealistic synodical overture?