Extending the Call

By Don Anderson

When you finally find the minister you believe has the competence, chemistry, and character you have been praying for God to provide, you feel like breathing a sigh of relief and celebrating—but your work is far from complete. It is important to be thorough as you complete these last few steps.

Doing Your Homework

Before you begin searching for any candidate, create a job description and poll other churches to find out the compensation packages they provide for similar positions. The best practice is to maintain approved salary ranges with associated benefits by job classification so you maintain equity with existing staff.

Consult salary survey data from a number of sources such as the National Association of Church Business Administration (NACBA), Leadership Network, or ChurchStaffing.com to decide on a salary and benefits range for your open position.

In addition, before you begin recruiting, decide if you will cover relocation costs, such as the direct moving expenses of furniture, household goods, and vehicles; house-hunting trips; breaking a lease; selling or buying homes; etc. If you are not willing to cover relocation expenses, then look to fill your position from local candidates. The best pastoral candidates will likely expect some financial assistance with their relocation.

Continue your data collection throughout the entire interview process so you build an understanding of your candidate’s expectations, and informally test your understanding of those expectations. It may seem obvious, but a common mistake is not to collect enough information early in the process to be fully prepared to close the deal with the selected candidate. As a result, candidates are surprised by salary, benefits, relocation, start date, or a variety of other factors.

Several key data points to collect and confirm periodically during the hiring process include:

• Past salary history (informally or formally later in the process with W2 income or sample pay stubs for the past two years).

• Expected income range.

• If relocation is necessary, know the cost-of-living impact for an out-of-town candidate and the expected costs and/or components (moving expenses, deposits, breaking a lease, etc.).

• Available start date.

Ask about the candidate’s professional and personal aspirations. Take time to consider the candidate’s perspective. Analyze the employment package to determine elements that might need improvement or could be problematic for the candidate.

The person who finalizes and/or presents the job offer will vary from church to church. Typically, when hiring a senior minister, the final negotiator is the head of the pulpit search committee or the board chairman. For most other positions, the eventual supervisor or executive pastor is responsible. In any case, it is important that the person who extends the call and negotiates salary and benefits has been involved throughout the entire hiring process, has sufficient hiring experience and ability, understands the concept of win-win negotiations, and has authority to negotiate and make adjustments within pre-established limitations.

Preclosing a Candidate

Preclosing a candidate is an important step of the offer process that often is skipped.

Make a preclosing call once you know the candidate will be receiving an offer from the church (assuming that all background and reference checking is successful). In such a call, your goal is to outline the details of a typical offer, but also be very clear that this is a confirmation of the candidate’s interest and not the final offer.

Recap the information concerning the position and compensation with a proposed start date.

Seek to identify and discuss any discrepancies between your expectations and the candidate’s expectations. Several sample questions to this end might include:

• Is this offer what you were hoping for?

• Are any of these offer parameters unacceptable?

• Have you already discussed this opportunity with your spouse or do you need more time to discuss it?

• Do you think your current church will give you a counter offer, and is there a chance you would stay?

• With the right offer, when would you be able to start?

Complete the discussion and set a time for the next meeting or telephone call to discuss the official offer.

Update the offer as appropriate with the information gathered in the preclosing call.

Extending the Call

The next important step is extending the call with the job offer.

Once you have internally agreed to move forward with the offer, meet or call the candidate as previously agreed upon.

It is best to present the offer in person, if possible. When a face-to-face meeting is not possible, a phone call to present the offer should be followed with an offer letter e-mailed to the candidate.

In the meeting or phone call, try to convey the excitement and emotion you have for hiring the individual.

• Start with the great news of wanting the candidate to join your staff.

• Express your excitement about the impact they are going to make.

• Present and discuss the details of the job offer.

• Specifically address the candidate’s questions and concerns.

• Finally, ask for the candidate’s feedback about the offer.

Do not expect or request the candidate to immediately accept the offer. In fact, encourage him to take time in extended prayer and discussion with his spouse and family. Ask him how much time he needs to decide and set a specific day for the next conversation.

As stated above, it is important to follow up the meeting or phone call with an e-mailed offer/letter that requests confirmation of receipt. The letter should explain the position role, responsibilities, salary and benefits, relocation parameters, proposed start date, and any other items specific to the candidate.

Always require the offer letter to be signed and returned by an agreed-upon date after the candidate acknowledges verbal acceptance of the final job offer.

Conducting Open Negotiations

During subsequent negotiations, it is important to remember what Warren Buffet says, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

Seek God’s direction throughout negotiations. It is important to realize your reputation and the relationship established with the candidate are more important than the position.

Go about the negotiations in the same way you’ve been conducting the interview process.

Prayerfully approach negotiations in a respectful, direct, and honest way.

Be as open and transparent as possible. Remember, this is not a competition; rather it is more like negotiating a lifetime partnership. Search for the best stewardship from all viewpoints so everyone wins.

Welcoming the New Minister

Do your best to set up the new minister for long-term success with your church.

Take the time to develop a communication strategy specific to your church culture that outlines what you will do, when it will happen, and who is responsible. Use all available communication channels to introduce and help establish a warm welcome for the new minister.

If the church has been fully aware of the search process, then announce your success at the first opportunity. Use the worship bulletin, videos, and pulpit announcements to communicate to the entire congregation, augmented with more details in e-mails and letters.

For an associate pastoral position in larger churches, use e-mails and letters to communicate with church leaders and specific ministry volunteers within the candidate’s area of responsibility.

In all cases, introduce and pray for the new candidate and his family during all of the services on their first weekend with the church.

• Set up a meet-and-greet reception on that first weekend.

• Assist the new minister in identification of the key leaders and volunteers they need to meet with during the first weeks on staff.

• Post information about the new minister and his responsibilities on the church Web site or your social networking sites such as Facebook, blogs, and Twitter.

And when this successful search is completed, celebrate, with the knowledge that your church will have many more to go as it does its part to fulfill the Great Commission!

Donald Anderson is executive pastor of Chandler (Arizona) Christian Church. He has 30 years of marketplace and faith-based staff recruiting and management experience.

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A convenient, 12-page download that includes all seven articles about Hiring a New Minister–and which may be reproduced up to 10 times for church and ministry needs–can be purchased at www.standardpub.com.

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