Entering the ministerial search process is equal parts exciting and scary, mysterious and revelatory. The Settlement Handbook for Ministers and Congregations, maintained by the Transitions Office, is a fascinating document that masterfully outlines this incredibly lengthy and complicated process. One particular item caught my eye.
As the Congregational Record encourages congregational self-disclosure, so the Ministerial Record encourages self-disclosure by the minister. In most cases ministers have invested a great deal of themselves in completing the MR and look upon their expression of interest as an offer of their ministry and themselves. Their sense of vulnerability is often high at this point.
This statement succinctly expressed my feeling as I send my Ministerial Record out for the world to review — vulnerable. But, as frightening as the prospect of bearing my soul to all interested parties may be, the wonderful anticipation grows.
And, of course, anyone who knows me will tell you that I have never been shy when talking about myself. So, self-disclosure is not the real concern. Rather, I can’t help wonder if I have crossed every “t” and dotted every “i” sufficiently, so that the perfect match for me will read my Ministerial Record and call.
I have the luxury of not being geographically bound, so I have been reading incredibly interesting Congregational Records from Maine to California, Iowa to Florida, Texas to Michigan. The congregations range from just under 100 members to just over 500. Every record is different, but in other ways they are remarkably similar. Virtually every congregation wants a minister who will lead, inspire, share, and empower. Every church in search wants a preacher, teacher, administrator, counselor, and visionary. It is a daunting list.
What makes it all seem possible, however, is the level of honesty I detect in the Congregational Records. I have read dozens of accounts of church conflict, troubled ministries, resource challenges, and unfulfilled dreams. So whenever I grow anxious thinking of the challenge before me, I just remember how vulnerable these congregations have allowed themselves to be in looking for new ministers.
Wherever I end up this time next year, I know that I will not be facing the beautiful unknown future alone. I will be walking alongside hundreds of souls, braving the uncertainty with joy, with energy, and with love.