Your important role in building an exceptional Search Committee

by Lynn Kettleson

On Sunday, February 26, First Religious Society Congregation Members (those who have signed a Membership application) will begin the process of naming a Search Committee whose job it will be to present to the congregation the candidate for our next settled minister. Now is the time to start assembling your own list of prospective candidates for the Search Committee.

Selecting this committee is one of the most important decisions that congregation members will make, and each and every one of us has an important part. The most important factor in choosing who to recommend is trust that they will to do the hard and necessary work of selecting our next settled minister.

We’ll each be asked to fill out a form with up to five names. Ultimately, a slate of seven members will be presented to the Congregation at the annual meeting on May 21, 2017.

“A Search Committee must be oriented to the future rather than the past,” said our interim minister, Susan Milnor. “It’s important to be looking at what the church needs next in the way of ministry. Each member should think about:  what kind of ministry does the congregation want to have in its next phase and, therefore, who is it going to partner with as a settled minister in this phase of its life?

“It needs to be people who are looking at the very broad picture of the congregation and congregational life.

“Commitment is important. I would personally not suggest somebody who I did not feel was solidly committed to the Congregation and to this faith.”

To help you in your recommendation process, here are some suggestions from the Parish Board:

  • Who can represent the membership best?
  • Who in the membership works well with others?
  • Who in the membership knows the history and culture of FRS?
  • Who can speak effectively to a potential minister about our membership’s strengths and weaknesses?
  • Who in the membership can represent the diversity of our FRS community?
  • Who in the membership is a good judge of character and can evaluate the minister’s fit with the membership?

Suggesting names, Rev. Milnor said, “needs to be very thoughtful; it needs to be intentional; it needs to be done in good faith. It has great implications for the future, and with a Congregation with the kind of history of ministries that the FRS has, it doesn’t come along very often. So it particularly bears a level of import.”

So your job is to come up with a list of up to five names.

“I would truly suggest as many people between zero and five as I believe in,” Susan said. “If that’s only three people, then give us three. I would encourage people to think outside the box. It’s not just people who have done something in the past; but people who you think might have that vision. And you also need to think about naming people who have good chemistry with others – people who could work well.

She also suggested that our lists consider diversity and the diversity of our congregation. “Consider that your Search Committee will create an instant impression among candidates. Don’t you want a promising candidate who, in meeting the Search Committee, to see everyone in the church?

“And don’t forget Young Church. You need generational diversity on the committee. Young Church is a vital part and the future of this congregation. Not only because we hope these young people grow up and be a member of our church or some other UU congregation, but that we hope that their parents stick around and become the elders of this church.”

She suggests that if you don’t know Young Church people to nominate, then encourage those in Young Church to spread the word and make their suggestions.

“Once you have a committee of good people, you can just settle into the next year and wait and see and trust the committee, because they must work in a very confidential manner. But selecting the right committee will give you a greater confidence as you look to the future.”

Important Dates in the Search Committee Selection Process

Feb. 26 – Launch of the selection process. Congregation members begin to present names.

March 13-29 – Non-responders will be individually contacted by the Parish Board and urged to offer names.

March 31 – Deadline for proposing names.

March 31 – April 18 -- List of proposed names for Search Committee will be prepared.

April 19 – Parish Board meets to set a slate. From the top names, the board will select a proposed slate of seven members and five back-ups that reflects diversity and the other attributes suggested by the UUA process.

April 20 – Parish Board contacts the proposed slate to determine their willingness to serve.

April 27 – Deadline for response from proposed Search Committee members.

May 5 – Search Committee slate completed.

May 7 – The Search Committee slate with full biographies will be presented to the Congregation.

May 21 – First Religious Society Annual Meeting. Slate will be presented to the Congregation for a vote.