Senior Pastor Search

Dear WCPres Brothers and Sisters,

The purpose of the Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) is to find a Senior Pastor to help us achieve our mission as defined in the Our Path Forward document. We pray that at the end of our work God will be pleased and that our church will be unified in affirming our decision.

In order to accomplish this task in a way that identifies Senior Pastor candidates that most closely match our congregation in a timely manner, Session has hired the AGORA Search Group to facilitate the process. We are excited to be partnering with AGORA and are very encouraged with their process, integrity and thoroughness. Our AGORA liaison has been a pastor, and understands churches, their needs, and the issues pastors face.

The PNC has worked with AGORA to develop a document that describes the position, our church community, and where we want to go as a church. The official search was launched with this document on Feb. 6th.

The next phase involves AGORA networking with over 3000 pastors and church leaders looking for interested applicants. If anyone at WCPres knows people we should talk to, please contact someone on the PNC. We will work with AGORA to filter applicants. AGORA will handle initial interviews. Their interview process becomes more intense as candidates rise to the top: AGORA’s final interviews involve our AGORA liaison meeting with them at their homes, and with their families, and having a long walk & talk where they will dive deeply into personal matters. By the time the PNC brings a final two or three candidates to Walnut Creek on-site interviews, each candidate will have had about fifty hours of interview time and between us we will have reviewed ten to twenty sermons. This weekend visit will be a carefully thought-through opportunity for candidates to evaluate us as we evaluate them.

Pastor Benjamin may enter this process. Because of his position here his application will be considered with the best candidates found by Agora. In fairness to the process, to him, and to the other candidates, he will then go through whatever interview process all other final candidates go through, and the same interview process by the PNC.

This search process involves talking with pastors who are currently serving churches and privacy is imperative. So as with every previous PNC, we will not be sharing names. Our aim is to be as transparent as possible with our congregation while retaining confidentiality.

Just as with any PNC, when we are done, the church will be presented with one candidate.

Brothers and Sisters, in order to honor our God and Father, the nominating committee asks three things of you:

  1. Uphold the integrity of this process and the expectations of discretion and confidentiality that come with it.
  2. Refrain from and combat rumor and conjecture among us whenever it arises.
  3. Please pray for us for our church, and for the person God is bringing to be our permanent pastor.

We will be updating the congregation regularly on our status using the following graphic. The detailed descriptions of each phase are listed below.

  • PNC's job is to nominate the best candidate for our church. During October we had in-depth weekend interviews with each of our top candidates:
    • A welcome/social dinner with PNC members, candidate, and spouse
    • A six-hour interview with candidate on Saturday. Our questions were around the five characteristics we are looking for.
      • Relational aptitude
      • Authentic humility
      • Effective director
      • Visionary
      • Gifted disciplinarian
      (See the June update on the website for details of what these five characteristics mean.) We also gave each candidate an opportunity to ask us questions.
    • A final two-hour debriefing lunch with the candidate and spouse after they attended church services. (They each told us that we have a friendly, welcoming congregation.)
    • Each candidate received copies of the updated Our Path Forward document; information about our financial status, attendance numbers, existing programs, and youth and Sunday school programs; and our Session’s clarity document, covenant, and desired structure for WCPC. We were as clear and open about our church as possible. We sought to present WCPC as no more and no less than what we currently are.
    • We the PNC held a private discussion following each interview.
  • Any of these three candidates would make an excellent senior pastor. We are excited to have three incredibly good candidates. We’re praying that they and we discern what is best for our church at this time. Each has great gifts and strengths and each their own weaknesses. We are all just humans, trying to use our gifts for the glory of God as are they.
  • For as much as we hope our next senior pastor will be an essential part of leading WCPC to greater health and ministry, we also know that the pastor won’t be our savior. Our life together is a three-way partnership between the pastor, all of us, and God. We will need God’s grace and power for strength, healing, and guidance so we can walk together the way He wants. "What is impossible with man is possible with God." – Luke 18:27
  • As I said last month, the brilliant thing about using AGORA Search Group is that they have done a lot of the legwork for us, visited the families, checked all the references, and done a "deep dive" interview (during which they can ask incredibly personal questions in complete privacy). I want to reiterate that AGORA has done an amazing job of identifying these candidates and streamlining our process.
  • As we have stated before, we have been in regular contact with Mike Barris at Bluewater Presbytery. Bluewater has already reviewed credentials for each candidate.
  • Presbytery is now in a deeper process with our candidates. Our Session still doesn't have names or details. They are just as eager as you all to know who is the one. Presbytery will take the time they need to follow their process.
  • Once the Presbytery process is complete and the PNC has determined the best candidate to recommend, Session will be informed and work will be done with the Session to develop the terms of call for the candidate.
  • Due to California labor laws, ECO constitution and our by-laws do not require a congregational vote on the terms of call. However, this congregation just reviewed the budget which included provision for a new senior pastor. The final terms of call will be in accord with those approved budget realities.
  • Presbyterian polity is somewhat like a representative democracy: we, the local church, elect individuals to work together for our best interests. With prayer and the help of the Spirit, those elected individuals are charged to do their best for the church community, laying aside personal preferences.
  • The congregation has the responsibility per ECO’s Constitution to vote on the call of a pastor. As soon as everything is in order, a meeting of the congregation will be held to call our next pastor. As soon as possible, we will let you know more about the candidate and when and how you will meet him.
  • The nominating committee nominated and then you all elected the nine of us on the PNC in a huge effort to represent many different views, ages, genders and ethnicities. It is our job to think hard about what the congregation wants and needs as well as what Session has asked for and what Staff wants, and then to come up with the best possible candidate. We must do all this while using our intellects, emotions and preferences; listening to one another; and trying our best to rely on God the Holy Spirit to guide us.

Thank you so much for praying through this process with our PNC.
Lisa Chrisman

The Search Process and Timeline

The AGORA search process flows through 4 intentional phases: Define, Discover, Discern & Decide. During these phases there will be specific responsibilities that fall upon either AGORA or the Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC). Throughout the process both AGORA and the Search Team have the ongoing responsibilities of prayer and frequent meetings.

Click on a phase to learn more about it

Phase 1: Define

1-2 Months

Agora

Meet with hiring authorities
Discover your story
Day of discovery
Identify unique message
Create opportunity profile
Identify networking channels

PNC

Take online surveys
Host the day of discovery
Approve the opportunity profile
Create search website with link to AGORA
Update congregation

Phase 2: Discover

4-7 Months

Agora

Initiate networking
Conduct candidate interviews/video calls begin
Thorough referencing process
Meet final candidates including family dinner
Orchestrate weekend experience packets

PNC

Review candidate resumés & sermons
Decide candidates to move forward
Prepare for the weekend experience
Create weekend experience packets
Update congregation

Phase 3: Discern

1-2 Months

Agora

Gather information from final candidates
Complete thorough referencing calls
Present final candidates
Develop and present candidate portfolio
Debrief client
Debrief candidate(s)

PNC

Review 10 sermons of each final candidate
Calendar and finalize weekend experiences
Finalize interview questions
Complete weekend experience packets
Plan website/video announcement
Update congregation

Phase 4: Decide

1-2 Months

Agora

Meet with client on final decisions
Extend offer
Partner with client for successful on-boarding
Follow-and review

PNC

Present final candidate to governing body
Finalize announcement details
Celebrate what God has done!
Onboarding of new pastor