We need to do better.
The church, in many ways, is in the business of communication. The great commission calls us to share the gospel with all people. To do this, we are charged with clearly communicating who Jesus is, why his work is so important, and what we are called to do as a result of his work. To do this well, we need to communicate clearly, intentionally, and in a way that people can hear it.
And while communication is such an important part of the church's work, one of my pet peeves is how poorly the church communicates with those who are seeking to join their staff. In fact, part of the reason that I wanted to start Chemistry was to make sure that every candidate that submitted a resume for a Chemistry search received a response to that submission.
During my last search for an executive pastor position, I conducted an experiment. I tracked every resume that I sent out. 90% of the churches that I reached out to never responded. 90% of the churches never let me know they had received my resume, the status of their search, or that they were moving in a different direction. In my conversations with candidates, this is not abnormal.
We need to do better.
One of the most overlooked parts of a search process is how to communicate with candidates. We ask candidates to consider aligning their lives with us, to research our church and area, and to take the risk of sending us their resume cover letters. Having a communication plan in place honors the risk that they take and lets them know what to expect.
A communication plan is fairly straightforward to put in place, and most of the work can be done up front. I advise churches to write out the emails that they will be sending to candidates before publicly posting the search, so that they are easily cut and pasted when needed. Three emails are typically all that you need:
- Thank you for your interest: This is the first email that a candidate receives. This is a quick thank you for sending in a resume along with an outline of your church's search process. It should spell out the timeline of the search, when the candidate can expect to hear from you again, and share any other important information about the process. I often suggest that a church set this up as an autoresponder on an email address solely used to accept resumes for the position.
- We're moving in a different direction: This allows a candidate to move on. A gracious email that thanks them for their interest and lets them know they are no longer being considered for the position. This should be personalized and should be sent out as soon as you know that this person is not the right fit. It is also helpful for it to be from a person, rather than The Search Committee of First Baptist Church.
- Here's what's next: When you decide to move forward with a candidate, it helps to remind them of the process. Let them know when they can expect to be contacted, what they can expect during the next stage of the process, and who they will be working with. We are constantly reminding candidates of what is next and letting them know where they are in the process. It helps them be better prepared for the conversations that they have and it also helps them better communicate to their families (who are stressing out about all this) what is going on.
The way that you communicate to a candidate speaks volumes about what you value, your organizational culture, and what it would be like to work there. Putting together a communication plan before publicly posting your opening will communicate volumes about your church... and make you more attractive to candidates.