News from the Executive Presbyter/Stated Clerk
If you are serving on a pastoral search committee or session of one of the congregations that are in transition within Central Florida Presbytery, you are aware of the unique challenges that have been part of the job of calling a pastor or securing an interim. By the time that Summer 2022 ends, we will have 21 congregations at some point in the transition process. That is one-third of the congregations in the presbytery.
Searches are taking longer. That extends the length of interim relationships, making the local “bench” rather thin of people to serve congregations entering transition. Welcoming an interim from outside the presbytery has been an iffy proposition the past couple of years, because …
The main factor in this is the continued presence of COVID. I have watched the statistics of ministers and candidates willing to move in the denomination’s Church Leadership Connection system, the database that matches people with positions seeking leadership. COVID has impacted the number of ministers willing to move rather dramatically.
Currently, there are 1,818 call seekers with a Personal Information Form in the system, breaking down as 1,719 ministers and 85 candidates. That in itself is a little lower that pre-COVID numbers. But it is the number of people who are willing to move now — in the next nine months, CLC’s highest level of activity — that is revealing. Only 514 ministers and 52 candidates are willing to relocate at the present time. There are 671 positions in the system looking for leadership, with only 566 people available to be considered. This doesn’t get into other important factors such as experience level desired by the calling congregation or whether a person has indicated a willingness to come to Florida (40% are willing).
In April-May 2021, the numbers were improving. We were in a COVID lull, and vaccines were rolling out. I remember the number of ministers willing to move climbed to over 600. There was hope the system would return to a more usual pattern. Then the delta variant hit in the summer, followed by the omicron variant during the holidays that produced the highest numbers yet but has decreased since winter peaks, only to surge in these summer weeks. After the delta variant, the numbers in the CLC system fell back with less than 500 ministers in the system willing to move. The numbers have not changed much since.
Several search committees can tell stories of ministers who spoke affirmatively about the position being offered, but after prayerful consideration concluded that now was not the time to move their family.
I have mentioned all of this so you will know the challenges being faced by our congregations in transition. People who serve on search committees deserve a special vote of thanks, now more so than ever. I suggest the following:
I have felt for some time, and have shared this with search committees, that there must be a lot of pent-up energy in the CLC system from people who have put off the idea of moving for the past 2.5 years. Sooner or later these folks will get back into the process, which will improve relocations dramatically. Until that happens, we must stay the course, trust the process, and hope and pray.
Executive Presbyter / Stated Clerk
Rev. Dr. Dan Williams