Ministerial Search Team

By now, you should have received an email with a link to our online congregational survey. As we explain in that email, the survey is the first — and an extremely important — part of our ministerial search process. It will provide us with crucial information about who we are as a church and what we’re looking for in a minister. The Search Team will rely on this information to determine which ministerial candidates are a good fit with Wildflower.

But, the survey will not be meaningful unless everyone completes one — church members and non-members alike. If you attend Wildflower Church and care about its future, we want to hear from you!

The survey is a bit lengthy — it may take you 15 or 20 minutes to complete it. Most items offer objective check-box responses, and most have room for your further comment, if desired.

So please, if you haven’t already done so – get yourself a beverage, sit down and get comfortable, and tell us everything about you and what’s important to you at Wildflower! This is your opportunity to share your voice with us, so please do so!

The link to the survey is also being provided to you every Thursday in the Wildflower Weekly News email. But if for any reason you cannot find it, please do not hesitate to contact us at search@wildflowerchurch.org, and we’ll send it to you.

And, if you would just feel more comfortable filling it out at church, we have Search Team members in the Community Room every Sunday in September after the worship service. We have laptops for you to fill it out online, and paper copies are available upon request, if you prefer.

This is a very exciting time at Wildflower Church! Please join us in this process by filing out the survey as soon as you are able!

Please be sure to join us this Sunday, September 8, for a church-wide group photo during the Worship Service! Instead of Time for All Ages and the Congregational Greetings, we will have everyone – members, visitors, and friends – come to the front of the sanctuary to get a picture with our banner in the background.

This photo is being organized by the Ministerial Search Team, and it will go on our website and in our Congregational Record. It will give prospective ministerial candidates a chance to see who we are.

If you feel comfortable being part of this photo, we welcome your participation! And, the whole thing will probably be a little chaotic, so we welcome your patience, as well!

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at search@wildflowerchurch.org.

If you were at church last Sunday, you saw our flyer in the Order of Service! It’ll be there again this Sunday, and it’s also posted around the Community Room. Here’s what it says, with an additional notation about the group photo on September 8:

Don’t miss FIVE MAJOR EVENTS in September to aid us in our search for a new minister to begin in August 2020!

  • Congregational Survey: Throughout September

We need YOU to complete the congregational survey in September! The survey provides us with crucial information about who we are as a church and what we’re looking for in a minister! We will rely on this information to determine which ministerial candidates are a good fit with Wildflower. The survey will not be meaningful unless everyone completes one — members and non-members alike! Watch your email for a chance to take it online. If you need any help, we will have Search Team members in the Community Room with their laptops, every Sunday in September, to provide assistance. And paper copies are available upon request.

  • Church-wide Group Photo: September 8

Join us for a church-wide group photo on Sunday, September 8, after the worship service! As soon as the service is over, we’ll all come down to the front of the sanctuary to pose with our banner in the background. This photo will go on our website and in our Congregational Record to show prospective ministerial candidates who we are. Will this be chaotic? Yes! But please join us anyway! And after the photo, join us in the Community Room for the Children’s RE Ice Cream Social!

  • Search Team Worship Service: September 15

Be sure to attend church on September 15 to learn all about the search process, where we are in the process, the importance of each step and your involvement, and more! Meet the Search Team and hear about all the work we’ve been doing!

  • Beyond Categorical Thinking Workshop: September 22, 1:30 – 4:30 p.m.

Beyond Categorical Thinking is a highly recommended part of the search process. In finding the person who would be the best match as our minister, we could potentially overlook or even let biases keep us from knowing that a particular person would be the best match for us. We will have trainers facilitate this conversation so we can examine how we can avoid letting prejudice become a part of our search process. This is yet another way for us to put our faith into lived experience and improve the odds that regardless of identity, we will find the minister who is the best match for us and who will serve us well. Please make plans to attend this important event!

  • First Cottage (Small Group) Meeting : September 29, 1:30 p.m.

We will have small group meetings as the survey concludes, to follow up on themes we see in those answers and further explore what our priorities are for a minister. These meetings will be at the church on September 29 at 1:30 p.m., October 1 at 7 p.m., and October 5 at 9 a.m. Please be sure to attend one (no need to attend all three, they’re all the same!) to give us additional feedback!

We haven’t made a blog post in a few weeks, but in case you’ve been wondering, we’re still hard at work!

We have just about finished the revisions to our survey questions, which we’ll be asking you to complete during the month of September.  This survey is so very important for us to learn about who our congregation is and what we want and need in a minister at this stage of our life.  It’s kind of long, and it may take you 15 or 20 minutes to complete, but we very much hope that everyone will participate. It just won’t be an accurate representation of our church unless everyone fills it out — members and non-members alike.

Also in September, we’ve scheduled a special Search Team worship service for Sunday, September 15.  Rev. Ferguson will be leading the service and we, the Search Team, will be assisting. This will be an opportunity for us to share with you all, in person, the important work that we’re doing, the need for your participation, and our hopes for this process.  We hope you can be there.

And, the following weekend, we’ll have our Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop, on Sunday, September 22, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., in the Community Room.  As we’ve mentioned before, this is a workshop put together by the UUA — ours will be led by Gil Guerrero of Carrollton, Texas — that is designed to address unspoken biases in the search process. In the workshop, we will explore our hopes and concerns for a new minister, as well as learn how our own history (both personal and congregational) might interfere with our efforts in this search. Ultimately, beyond being a terrific opportunity for us to face our own biases, our full participation in this workshop signals to prospective ministers that we are serious about being anti-racist, anti-oppressive, and welcoming to all, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or physical or mental ability. Please make plans to be there. Childcare will be provided.

In other news, Search Team Member Michelle attended the UUA’s General Assembly June 19-23 in Spokane, Washington.  She attended a special workshop for ministerial search teams from all over the U.S. — all the way from Maine to Alaska! In fact, it turns out that 65 different UU churches are searching for ministers this year, although only 40 of those are seeking settled ministers like we are.  And, there are at this point 85 candidates seeking ministerial positions.

But back to GA!  In Michelle’s workshop, they discussed the importance of staying in covenant with the UUA Transitions Team, the ministerial candidates, the other congregations in search, and our own team and congregations, to make sure we have a fair and healthy process in our search. They also talked about how important it was to stay on schedule — in order to make sure everything goes smoothly and we are able to handle challenges in a timely manner — while keeping in mind that this is truly a spiritual/personal and community growth journey for all of us involved.

The survey, BCT workshop, cottage meetings, and focus groups were all emphasized as extremely important, to make sure we are able to recognize our unseen biases that we carry with us and to help us, as a search team, make sure we know what YOU, the congregation, needs in our next minister to keep our church community strong and moving forward.

The Transitions Team helped with giving practical information about all the ins and outs of how to choose the right candidates for our congregations. They also went into the details about how to best go about ranking our choices and the specifics of the interviewing process. 

Finally, the Transitions Team didn’t mince words about compensation and how this was the most important aspect in a successful search.  We have to be realistic in our compensation plan but also make sure we are being fair. They specifically called out areas that are having challenges with the high cost of housing, like Seattle and, of course, Austin, and how this will play into compensation. They suggested that we be extremely familiar with what benefits we will be offering. This will help sell our congregation to a candidate, by putting their mind at ease that we are well-informed when it comes to all aspects of our compensation negotiations.  

All in all, we’ve got a lot of work ahead, but we’re moving forward, and we can’t wait for YOU to get involved!

This blog post is brought to you by Search Team member Libby Head:

If you’ve talked with any of the Ministerial Search Team members or if you’ve been reading our blog, you may know that the search for a new Minister is quite a complex process. First we went on a retreat, in part simply to get us oriented to our handbook. Our ninety-nine page handbook. It’s a completely overhauled edition, compiled over eight years of observation and reflection within the UUA. There are many rules, guidelines, tips, protocols, and schedules in this useful tome, and during our Search Team meetings we frequently refer to it on our laptops.

Sounds pretty intensive, right? Well, we have an equally lengthy responsibility in terms of the documents we create as part of the search, too. We will create a detailed survey to administer to you all in hopes of attaining valuable, rich insights to guide our process. We have to create something called a “Congregational Record” and a “Documents Packet”. 

Those are pretty vague-sounding terms, so perhaps imagine creating a personal ad (remember those? My generation is probably the last to have seen them in print) in the hopes of finding that perfect long-term partner. Now make sure your ad is detailed–we’re talking thousands of words long, answering dozens of questions about your needs and preferences. Be honest! Warts and all, as they say! Be sure to include your latest tax return, a copy of your driver’s license, the notes from your last therapy session, and a two-page autobiography that includes all of your previous partners.

That’s the Congregational Record and the Documents Packet in a nutshell.

What’s exciting about working with all this text–the handbook plus what we create–is that the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has come out with entirely re-done elements of the search process just in the last couple of years. I mentioned that our handbook for search just got that massive update, but besides that, the UUA also completely revamped the questions that all the congregations have to fill out to complete their Congregational Records. And they’ve just unveiled at this summer’s General Assembly a preferred set of survey questions for us to use (whereas previously you could get suggestions but you could freestyle anything you wanted). 

Why all this change? Well, we’re not sure. But I have some theories. You might be aware (because UUs love to be aware!) of some of the controversies that have gripped our Unitarian Universalist movement in recent years. As we grow, develop, and struggle together spiritually, the UUA leadership has made some important, long-time-comin’ kinds of changes. At the same time, amidst those efforts, the movement has made some big missteps, too. UUs keep having our eyes lovingly opened to areas where we fall short of our ideals. Even in our mighty striving for justice, equity, and inclusion, we have much more work to do. So, I believe that at UUA headquarters they’ve been giving a hard look to practices that need improvement, and working hard to refresh some of the areas that need it.

These rejuvenated approaches won’t affect you directly, beloved Wildflowers, but you will hopefully see the results in terms of the candidate for Minister whom the Search Team eventually introduces to you next spring. We will do our best to use the improved UUA resources to find you a candidate who’s as passionate as Wildflowers are about love, justice, and joy. There might still be difficulties along the way, but we trust you’ll let us know so we can share what needs a change. Everyone in our community is critical to conducting a good search process, from the unknown folks far away in the Transitions Office at UUA headquarters right down to you and me!

Yes, that’s right, your dedicated Search Team met for three and a half hours last Tuesday night!  And not a single one of us fell asleep at the meeting!

Despite its length, it was actually a terrific meeting.  We got so much accomplished! Here’s a sampling of some of the things we decided:

We’ll be conducting our survey of the congregation for the whole month of September.  You’ll hear more about this soon, but just know for now that this is a critical part of our search process — it gives us, and prospective ministers, valuable information about our church, and it helps us narrow our focus on what qualities are most important to us in a new minister.  We very much hope that everyone will participate in the survey!

In late September or early October, we’ll have our congregation-wide Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop.  This is a workshop put on by the UUA that is designed to address unspoken biases in the search process. In the workshop, we will explore our hopes and concerns for a new minister, as well as learn how our own history (both personal and congregational) might interfere with our efforts in this search. Ultimately, beyond being a terrific opportunity for us to face our own biases, our full participation in this workshop signals to prospective ministers that we are serious about being anti-racist, anti-oppressive, and welcoming to all, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or physical or mental ability.

Then, in October, we’ll be hosting cottage meetings and focus groups.  Cottage meetings are open to anyone to attend, and there will be several to accommodate various schedules.  It’s a chance to further narrow down our search criteria, and we hope you’ll be sure to attend one. Focus groups will be opportunities for specific groups in the congregation to meet with the search team to discuss the particular desires they have for our new minister.

By November 17, we will be submitting our Congregational Record to our Coach, Rev. Phil.  It will include data from all of the above and more, and much of the data will be available on our website.  And speaking of the website, we are also in the midst of a number of website revisions to make our website more informative and visually appealing.  Keep an eye out for the changes!

It’s going to be a busy fall, but every step we take gets us closer to calling the minister that’s right for us!  We look forward to working with you on each of these steps, and as always, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions at search@wildflowerchurch.org.