Newsletter / Issue 28, May 2015

The Lead Pastor Decision Making Process

By Tony Classen

This season of pastoral transition has required that the Elders and Pastor Search Team dust off the documents that dictate our organizational process and structure. One of these documents is called the New Hope Church Constitution that, at a very high level, explains how we are to operate as a church body. And, being a constitution, just like the United States Constitution, it is required that we follow the processes outlined in this document. We specifically wanted to find out what the constitution said about how a major church decision is ratified. We then needed to apply this governance to our current pastor search.

First, let me explain what the constitution says. The New Hope Church Decision Making Process is outlined in Article VII. In it, it states that the decision of hiring a Staff Elder (i.e. Pastor) must be brought before the Church members for affirmation. There are other major decision items that require the same process like the approval of the yearly operating budget and the appointment of elders. These latter two you might be familiar with, as these decision items have occurred in the last year.

So how are these proposals of decisions “brought before the church?” The constitution says that these decisions are to be presented to the Church either in a formal meeting setting (like the occasional family meetings we have) or through some other form of communication with the appropriate advance notice. After being informed of a proposal, any member may voice questions, concerns or affirmation to the active Elder team. The constitution states directly that members have a voice in decision making, but votes will not be taken.

The Elder team, after providing sufficient time for members to give feedback, will determine if there is adequate support of the proposal. The Elder team will decide when a decision is final and able to be acted upon. The goal of the process structured this way in the Constitution is to keep the Elders from making major decisions for the Church in isolation.

In all matters it shall be the responsibility of the Elder Team to insure that the decisions made reflect a unity of spirit and preserve the worth of people above actions. All decisions are ultimately subject to God’s revealed truth in the Bible.

That brief description is the current process as outlined in our constitution. Now how does this process get applied to the decision of the Lead Pastor position?

An additional consideration for the Lead Pastor search process is the confidentiality of the candidates. It has been highly recommended to us by PastorServe that we keep candidates’ information confidential until indicated otherwise by the candidate. Many of the candidates are seeking employment without their current employer knowing.

A secondary consideration is that it has been the intent of the Pastor Search Team to be as open as possible and to communicate what we know, when we know it. These two factors have often been in tension for us because we want to communicate details, but we cannot due to confidentiality of the candidates.

With these additional factors in consideration and in seeking alignment with the Constitution, we propose the following process in the ratification of the Lead Pastor decision. (Note: a decision was made early on in the process that the Pastor Search Team is only to make a recommendation, not the final decision.)

When the Pastor Search team is ready to make a recommendation(s) to the elders, they will facilitate a meeting with the current elders and spouses, current LIFE Group leaders and spouses, New Hope ministry staff and spouses, and the Christian Challenge core leadership team.

Those in attendance of this meeting will be required to sign the same covenant and confidentiality agreement that the Pastor Search Team signed. During this meeting, the Pastor Search team will present the candidate(s) with as much detail as possible. It will be this larger group of New Hope leaders that will provide first line feedback to the elders. The Elders will use the feedback at this meeting to make a final recommendation to the church with the affirmation of this larger group of New Hope leaders.

The Elders will make their recommendation to the church by facilitating a meeting with the candidate in which the entirety of New Hope will be invited. The logistics and timing of this meeting are yet to be determined. The Elders will finalize the Lead Pastor decision based upon the feedback of this meeting.

It is our prayer that this process honors the candidate’s confidentiality, respects the process as outlined in our constitution and honors the voice of all the members of New Hope.

If you should have any questions, please be invited to contact me.