Wow, January has been a busy month for your Ministerial Search Team!

As you know, a lot of ministers expressed interest in coming to Wildflower. We worked hard to narrow the list, and ended up conducting video interviews of about half of them. That took us about a week, because we had to schedule days and times when the minister and all seven of us were available. Meanwhile, during this time, we were also contacting two references for each minister. As much as possible, we tried to conduct those by video as well, although we only had two team members on each of those calls instead of all seven of us.

After all that, we had to decide upon our three pre-candidates — the three people that we would invite to Austin for a weekend. This was quite difficult! We really liked everyone that we interviewed! But we returned to our rubric (a tool we designed to evaluate each minister by the same criteria), which helped us stay focused on the qualities that you told us were most important to you in a new minister — the ability to lead a strong Sunday service, be a leader in the community, lead the congregation in social action, exhibit strong interpersonal skills, provide quality pastoral care, and support multi-generational ministry. Using the rubric, we were able to reach consensus on which three people were strongest, across the board, in these areas.

We sent out our invitations, and all three accepted! This was such a joy to us. Each minister is permitted to express interest in fifteen different churches, and is only permitted to accept a pre-candidating invitation from three. So it was very possible that at least one of our top three would not be available to us, having chosen three other churches already. We were incredibly fortunate that all three of our choices accepted our invitations!

The next hurdle became scheduling. Last fall, we decided on which three weekends during this phase of our process would work best for our team, and we scheduled our “neutral pulpits” during those weekends. (As a reminder, when the pre-candidates come to Austin, they will not preach at Wildflower; instead, they will preach at other nearby churches). We managed to work two of our pre-candidates into that schedule, but the third was unable to make our third weekend work. And our previously arranged neutral pulpit was unable to move to another date. So we had to quickly find another church that could host our pre-candidate on a different weekend! We worked feverishly on this for several days and finally found a church that would work for our new weekend. Whew!

The weekends that the pre-candidates are here will be very busy ones for us. We will be having dinner with them and their partner on Friday night; interviewing them for three hours on Saturday morning; giving them a tour of our facilities and of Austin; watching them conduct a worship service on Sunday morning; and having a final lunch interview with them on Sunday afternoon before they leave. The purpose of all of this, among other things, is to give all of us lots of time with each other in different settings — to help us decide if they are right for us, and to help them decide if we are right for them.

Now you are probably wondering: Who are these three people? When will they be coming to Austin? Where will they preach? And unfortunately, we cannot answer any of these questions. Confidentiality is extremely important at this stage of the process. Sometimes, ministers are interns or associates and are looking for jobs, but  have not yet informed their current congregation. Also, two ministerial colleagues could unknowingly be applying for the same position. On top of that, we are competing with other churches in this process, and the knowledge of whom the competition is could be a negotiating issue.

Finally, it is also very important that you, the congregation, not get involved at this stage of the game. It could be devastating if the congregation got invested right now and people became divided as to which person they preferred. The fact is, all three of these people would be absolutely wonderful ministers to Wildflower — we would not have invited them to Austin otherwise. But you selected us as your Search Team, and it is our job to carefully discern which of the three — if any of them — we think would serve Wildflower best in the coming years. We very much appreciate the immense trust that you have placed in us to make what will likely be an incredibly difficult decision.

And then, of course, we will once again have to hope that they accept our offer! All three of our pre-candidates may receive offers from the other churches they are visiting, which means they will have to decide which offer to accept. In a perfect world, every church and every pre-candidate gets matched with their first choice, but we all know that this is not a perfect world. Again, though, we would be very fortunate to have any of our three pre-candidates as our next minister!

Thank you, as always, for following and supporting our work. We are very excited about this next phase of the process, and we will keep you updated with any news we are able to share!