Matchmaking of Another Kind
Pre-marital counseling is gaining acceptance in more and more churches. It makes sense that when two persons want to get married, the couple should have an objective evaluation to see how suitable they are for each other.
There is another kind of matching that goes on but there is no service available to see if the two parties are suitable for each other. I am referring to the matching that goes on between a church and a pastor. When a church calls a pastor or when a pastor accepts a call, how do they know if they are suitable for each other? Assuming both sides are acting in good faith and seeking the will of God, should they discuss specific areas and arrive at a mutual understanding?
I would like to suggest the following guidelines for churches and prospective pastors and church workers to consider carefully before they commit to each other.
A. Consider the background, structure, and mission of the church. Such considerations would include the following:
- Its history, how it was founded
- Its mission, calling, emphasis
- Its current structure
- Decision making process and channel of command
- Current make-up of the members of the church
- Future plans and projection for the church
- Major successes and failures of the past
- Current strengths and weaknesses
- Budget and expenses, including giving to missions, for the past two years
B. Define the roles and specific responsibilities of the pastor. Is the pastor responsible for preaching, teaching, counseling, and pastoral care? What are the pastor's administrative duties? Does he also participate in the administration, training, and overseeing of the church? What are the pastor's office hours? Finally, to whom is the pastor accountable?
C. Define the roles and responsibilities of the elders and deacons. How do their roles of preaching, teaching, counseling, administration, training, and overseeing the church blend with the pastor? To whom are they accountable?
D. Determine the relationships among pastors, elders, and deacons. The relationships among church leaders, paid or lay, impact the spirit of the congregation and should be explored cautiously and carefully.
E. Find out who represents the church in matters outside the church. Such matters would include use of the church's equipment and facilities for social, civil and religious functions.
F. Determine the church's stance on women's issues concerning ordination, preaching on Sunday or other occasions, their ministry scope, and the pastoral staff positions they can hold. Does the church have any written policy or position in this area? The role of vocational and laywomen in ministry is a potentially explosive issue.
G. Ask questions concerning water baptism. Who can perform water baptism? What is the accepted mode of water baptism? Among prospective transferred members, who should be baptized again? What is the requirement for water baptism? Is there a minimum age required for baptism?
H. Do the same for infant baptism and dedication. Does the church practice infant baptism or dedication? Would the church accept parents' requests to have their infants baptized? Do both parents have to be Christians before their infant can be dedicated or baptized?
I. Is profession of faith in Christ a requirement in partaking the Lord's Supper? Is water baptism a requirement?
J. What is the church's stance on the issue of divorce and remarriage as it relates to membership and service in the church? Can divorced persons join the church? Is there any restriction to a divorced person serving in the church? Does the church differentiate the reason(s) for divorce to determine a person's suitability in service in the church?
K. Does the church perform marriage ceremonies for mixed-faith couples and non-Christian couples? Does the church have a position on such practices? Does the church allow mixed-faith and non-Christian couples to get married in the church sanctuary?
L. Does the church have a policy on the usage of the church sanctuary for memorial services for non-Christians?
M. What is the procedure involved in disciplining church members? Does the church have a policy on the disciplining of its members?
N. What is the procedure involved in accepting new members through transfer and/or water baptism? How does the church examine a person's belief? Does a person have to be baptized by immersion before he or she is accepted into membership? Does the church accept persons with criminal records into membership?
O. What are the requirements for joining the choir? Can non-Christians sing in the choir? Can non-members of the church sing in the choir?
P. Besides monetary remuneration and other provisions, the issues of outside ministries and engagements of the pastoral staff should be discussed. How many weekdays and Sundays can a pastor be absent from the church for outside speaking engagements, attending meetings and conferences? If an honorarium is involved, can a pastor dispose of it at his own discretion or does he need to submit it to the church? It should be obvious that whenever time and money are involved, feelings can be hurt easily and judgment gets clouded quickly. Better to be clear than criticized. Unfortunately, prospective pastors are sometimes criticized even for bringing up these issues.
Q. Does the church have provisions regarding further training and sabbatical leave?
R. What are the expectations of the church concerning the pastor's wife? If the pastor's wife has her own profession, it may be wise to disclose it and ask if the church has any problem with it, particularly if it involves some kind of sales.
I prayerfully raise these areas for your consideration. Much more can be said and I am sure you will add more areas to this list and fine-tune some of them. A good relationship depends on a lot more than agreement in specific areas, but knowledge and understanding do help in building a relationship.
I welcome your comments in this area of matchmaking. If I can be of any help to prospective pastors or members of a pastoral search committee, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the CCM office.