The search for an assistant minister to start in August is well underway! Here are the highlights of what we shared in our update on Sunday, as well as a list of the questions we got (along with their answers). If you are wondering about anything not answered here, or have any feedback about this position or the process, we welcome your dialogue!
Assistant Minister Selection Committee: Rev. Gretchen Haley (firstname.lastname@example.org), Scott Denning (Scott.email@example.com), Bonnie Inscho (firstname.lastname@example.org), Tim Pearson (Timp1600@comcast.net) and Sara Edwards (email@example.com).
Summary of our process so far…..
- January 3rd – Congregational Input Gathered and Conversation on the Process (Completed) – Here is the summary of those meetings.
- Week of January 4th – Job Description Finalized (based on feedback from congregation, lay leader input, staff conversation and input from the Board of Trustees) and Posted to our website and to the UUA transitions website (Completed – click here to see it)
- January 18th – Selection Committee (3-4 People) Appointed by the Board (Completed) – Scott Denning, Tim Pearson, Bonnie Inscho, and Sara Edwards will serve as the Assistant Minister Search Committee
- January 31st – Application Deadline – we received a total of 9 applicants from across the country, with equal representation of both men and women, all early career ministers, all strong applicants that we were enthusiastic to receive applications from
- Throughout January – Get-to-know-you conversations with Gretchen (Completed) all 9 applicants had an early conversation with Gretchen after their initial expression of interest
- Week of January 25th – Selection Committee and Gretchen review applications in first meeting (Completed) – through this process, narrowed down to 7 candidates
- Week of January 30th – First Interviews Conducted (with Gretchen) (Completed) – these notes were shared with the search committee and from these interviews, we narrowed the field to 5 candidates
- Week of February 7th – Meeting with Search Committee to determine who they will interview and questions they will use (Completed) – The Committee decided to proceed with 2 Interviews, based on the strength of the top 2 candidates. All other candidates have been notified.
- February 14th – Congregational update (Completed after both services – questions from these services are below.)
- Week of February 15th – Second Interviews with Committee (Scheduled)
- February 22nd – Determine plan for in-person interviews and potential for pre-candidating
- Throughout March – Check References and UUA Files and Complete On-Site Interviews
- No later than April 1st – Reach final decision on candidate
- No later than April 7th Make Offer
- April 10th – If we have an accepted offer, announce our new assistant minister to congregation
- Please note: If no match is found in this round, we will re-post and seek additional applications, knowing that the Ministerial Fellowship Committee sees new candidates in early April, so some will be looking for a job in April, and generally we would follow the same process as above, just completed in the months of April and May.
Questions from the February 14th Congregational Update:
Question: Why is it all happening so fast?
Answer: Each year, UU ministers who are thinking about a new ministry, apply for positions in January of each year. If we didn’t get on track with this application process/timeline, we miss that potential applicant pool. This year, about 90 ministers were all looking for their new ministry as of January 1 (to start in church year 16-17).
Question: What interview questions are being asked of the candidates?
- Here are the questions Gretchen asked each of the candidates:
- What is the best team you have worked with and why it was the best? What did you accomplish together? What was your role on that team?
- What do you hope for in a supervisor? How do you see our relationship working?
- What is your process for getting to know a congregation? How do you keep track of people’s stories, especially in the bigger system? What experience from your past had you keeping track of multiple people’s stories and helping them feel known?
- Tell me about 2 or 3 lay leaders that you identified and developed. What was the circumstance, the outcome, and how is it going now? What kind of ongoing training have you offered? Tell me about a recruit that didn’t go the way you expected – that was disappointing or frustrating. How do you know someone might be a good fit for a role in the church, and that they are ready – and how do you cultivate their skills and capacity?
- How would you describe what we are up to when say we are doing “pastoral care”? What does it entail? How is it different than therapy or simply listening? Tell me about a meaningful experience you have had with pastoral care. How do you fit pastoral care within your other priorities? How do you decide how to prioritize your time related to pastoral care? Finally, tell me about how you have navigated boundaries as it relates to pastoral care.
- Tell me about your experience with small groups. What models have you encountered. How have you trained facilitators. What qualities do you look for? How do you keep them fresh? What role should small groups play in congregational life. How have you seen them work in your experience?
- Who is the theologian or writer who you have to stop yourself from referencing every sermon. What is it about their work that you respond to?
- Here are the questions that the Selection Committee plans on asking the applicants:
- Scenario question related to pastoral care
- Scenario question related to small groups
- Our church has rapidly grown from small family oriented congregation to 800 adults/300 kids….there is now a mix of those who have been here a long time – great sense of tradition with smaller church….but also those who are brand new and excited about all the new and change – After 20 years of 1 minister, you will be the second new minister in 2 years – how will you work with this mix of continuity and novelty?
- How will you relate with different theological views – how do you engage with those who identify as humanists/atheists and who might struggle with “religion”?
- How would you bring your passion for multi-culturalism into our congregation?
- Given that you’re relatively new to ministry, how do you go about gaining a sense of pastoral authority as you work with congregants? How do you connect with and serve people who are in different ages and stages than you are? Have you encountered prejudice in terms of your age or experience? How have you dealt with that?
- How do you minister to the growing senior population AND the growing millenial population?
- Where do you see yourself in your ministry in 5 years, 10 years….?
- What would you say is your biggest challenge in ministry?
- How do you see yourself working with the staff?
- What systems or tools or structures would you use to manage and track your work – pastoral care, small groups, membership, etc.?
- What do you see as the way you complement Gretchen? What do you see as your challenges?
Question: How flexible will the role of the new A.M. be as far as being able to follow his/her own call and passion?
Answer: It is hoped that the new A.M. will bring in new ideas and creativity to help build our future, while also fitting with our mission and vision. There are 3 key areas where we will want the new A.M. to take a strong role: Pastoral Care, Small Groups, and Faith Formation (early connections, membership integration, and UU identity, as well as leadership development). Beyond that, we hope that we can encourage a full ministry partner who can collaboratively participating in determining where we will go next, and building the systems to get there. A lot will be determined by the amount of time that these three focus areas will take – they are the priority.
Question: Is the search committee looking for someone who will have “regional” (geographic) comfort?
Answer: Yes. There have been applicants from across the country, with the exceptions of the SE and NW. The applicants’ fit with our regional culture has been a big part of the search committee’s discussion and discernment.
Question: Can the new A.M. help with long range planning?
Answer: Yes, we are looking for a team member who will contribute new ideas, perspectives, and suggestions for the future development of Foothills.
Question: Tell us more about the role of the A.M. with small groups and pastoral care.
Answer: We are seeking someone with experience in these areas, but who also expresses a passion for these important aspects of church life. Gretchen will continue doing pastoral care as well. Most of the applicants are strong in both these areas and will bring innovation.
Question: Could the position of the A.M., which is short term, be continued beyond 2-3 years?
Answer: This new position is by hire, not call. Per the Bylaws, Foothills will contract for one year, which hopefully will be renewed for a second year, if it is a good fit. No promises are made beyond that, but it is possible that the A.M. could stay longer. However, we will wait until into the second year before even beginning such discussion, because we are still in flux after having just called our Senior Minister. We first need to all see how Gretchen’s ministry unfolds and see how it feels to have two ministers.
Question: What is the process for making the decision of to whom to make the offer?
Answer: Because of the relative short term of this position, and that it is a position that reports to Gretchen, the ultimate decision is Gretchen’s, but with strong input and consultation with the A.M. Search Committee. It is not by vote of the committee or the congregation.
Question: What are some of the general characteristics of the candidates?
Answer: The 7 candidates come from across the country, almost equally balanced by gender. Ages range from mid 20s to early 50s and all are at relatively early stages (new to 7 years of ministry) in their ministerial careers.
Question: What qualities are you looking for in the candidates?
- A good team member/collaborator who can get the work done
- Experience and passion for pastoral care and small group leadership
- Having a shared vision with Gretchen and the congregation
- Someone who works well in relationship with trust
- Good preaching and writing skills
- Works well with lay leaders
- Has theological and personal depth
- Comfortable with technology
- Great communicator (listener and sharer of info)
- Has good self-care and time management skills, and good boundaries
Question: Will there be 3 services after the new A.M. starts?
Answer: This has been talked about for awhile and next year we will first survey the congregation about the need for this and what it should look like. We will hope that we can expand our mid-week worship (currently the 10 times per year vespers services) to at least twice a month starting in the fall. Some of this depends on expanding our lay leader capacity, and we are working on that now.
Question: What is the evaluation process for deciding whether or not to renew the A.M. contract?
Answer: In our covenantal faith, the best way to provide feedback is on an ongoing basis -that’s true for this position, and for all of us. So our hope is that we begin to know about fit relatively early on, and then through ongoing dialogue we are able to discern throughout the year if the contract can be renewed. With that said, we are currently working to re-convene the Committee on Ministry (COM). This team will partner with Gretchen to gather and provide feedback to the assistant minister in February of 2017, in a similar to fashion to the feedback and evaluation process that we provided Gretchen at the end of her first year with us. In consultation and collaboration with the COM and the Board, Gretchen will determine the contract’s renewal. Beyond this process for our hired minister, we are also working with the Committee on Ministry to establish best practices for feedback about all of our shared ministries and their impact in our congregation and beyond, including a regular evaluation and feedback process for our called ministers. More on this in the coming months.