Knowing that everything rises or falls depending on the quality of leadership in the parish, the work of the incumbency committee is therefore vital in selecting the best possible leader. In the previous article we looked at developing a ministry or job description for the vicar or rector. Here we will consider ways to present the vacant parish through the parish profile and the interviewing process.

1. How to prepare a parish profile

The parish profile needs to be prepared with clergy in mind. Most profiles are internal documents and often are confusing to the outsider. For example, one major parish asked me to look at their profile which had no information about the local community and no indication as to the size of the church membership or budget. It is wise to ask a sympathetic clergy person to read through the profile and make suggestions for improvement. Remember to be honest and as objective as possible. The profile should include concise information under these headings:

a) Congregations

attendance patterns
lay involvement
style of worship
welcoming sequence
age patterns

b) Leadership

sense of vision
communication tools
degree of lay leadership
opportunities for lay ministry
laity ownership of programs
staff levels

c) Programs

Sunday school
adult education/training
children's work
youth programs
young adults
small groups
bible studies
missions welfare
men's work
sports programs
social events

d) Community

other churches
population size
population features- age, ethnicity, trends
hospitals, old people's homes

e) Facilities

church - condition, location, sound system
debt levels
adequate parking
classroom space
video equipment
home - provided?, condition, location
brief history
recent highlights
recent crises

f) The future

the opportunities for growth
why the parish is attractive

2. How to prepare a philosophy of ministry

My own parish at Emerald has developed a philosophy of ministry which sets out clearly our major values. This is given to all prospective members and helps to preclude any likely conflict. The Emerald document is available as a model for other parishes.

A philosophy of ministry can include the essential beliefs of the church about doctrine, evangelism, leadership, membership, ministry, finance and property.

3. How to interview candidates

a) Before the interview

i. do as much homework as you can on the best possible candidates and their specific strengths and weaknesses.
ii. pray that God will give you discernment.
iii. make sure you understand the diocesan regulations and procedures.
iv. develop a profile of the person you want. Don't major on the less important things like age and spiritual gifts; but rather focus on the passionately held convictions about truth, evangelism, the role of the laity and so on.
v. seek advice from wise people as you make up a short list.
vi. thoroughly research the track record (the specific achievements and failures) as well as the reputation of your top 3 candidates.
vii. develop your interview questions, and share them.
viii. make sure the parish is informed and praying.
ix. when you set up the first interview consider whether it is better to meet the candidate in his or her own home where you can see so much.
x. prepare your parish profile etc, to give the candidates before the interview.

b) At the interview

i. have a team of people backing you in prayer.
ii. one of he committee should open in a sincere prayer.
iii. establish how long the first interview will last.
v. don't rush through the questions but listen for the hidden factors (eg is the candidate wanting to escape from a difficult situation?)
v. ask tough questions (eg tell us specifically about your daily devotions, recent answers to prayer, when you last led someone to Christian commitment, how many hours a week do you work; what recent changes have you made etc)
vi. allow the candidate to ask questions, and give honest answers.
ii. close the interview in prayer.

c) After the interview

i. discuss your impressions and don't be prejudiced for good or bad by one answer or impression.
ii. consider whether a second interview is necessary with the top one or two candidates to go through ministry expectations, conditions, accountability etc.
iii. be determined to get the right candidate even if you have to work hard and face unforeseen obstacles.