How the Search for a Minister Works in UU Congregations

All Souls will start its year of search on Sunday, April 11, 2021. It will begin with the selection of the Ministerial Search Committee.

All Souls Unitarian Church’s Bylaws specify that the process of finding and calling your Senior Minister is the process outlined in the Settlement Handbook (click here to read it) published by the Transitions Department of the UUA (Unitarian Universalist Association). The handbook describes the process I’m outlining below. From years of experience, search committees, ministers, and UUA staff have refined this process. It works well for our congregations.

Creating a Ministerial Search Committee (MSC or Search Committee): A strong Ministerial Search Committee should:

  • Represent the entire congregation.
  • Be trusted by the congregation.
  • Understand the changing nature of the congregation.
  • Establish a good process for itself, for All Souls, and for the ministers it interviews.

To select the members of the seven-member Ministerial Search Committee, the Board of Trustees, Nominating Committee, Program Council, and other leaders will call Active and Voting Members, youth members, and active friends of All Souls. The calls will start on April 11, 2021. The caller will talk with the member about the qualities needed of members of a search committee:

  • Nominees will serve the interests of the congregation as a whole above any subgroup;
  • Nominees understand the demands and time required of serving on a search committee. Search committee members should attend every meeting and plan for roughly 8 hours a week of meetings and work from July, 2021 to mid-November, 2021, from January 2 until April 8, 2022, and for 8 days in late April/early May. This commitment includes three full weekends in February and March of 2022.
  • Nominees are committed to maintain confidentiality, seek consensus, and work well on a team.
  • Nominees are capable of both self-assertion and compromise.
  • Nominees are aware of what All Souls is like at its best, at its worst, and on an average day.

Then the caller will ask the member if they want to nominate anyone, and they can offer up to 3 nominees, all who should have the above qualities. Members may also nominate themselves.

Callers then send the nominations to a data-manager (Tom Miller has agreed to do this). Nominations will close on April 30, 2021.  The data manager will send the top 12-14 names to the Board. The Board will then contact this group of nominees, asking them if they will accept the nomination.

The nominees who agree to run will be presented to the congregation the last week of May, 2021. At a special meeting of the congregation on June 13, 2021, Voting Members of the congregation will each vote for 4 nominees. Absentee Ballots will be available by advance request to members who cannot attend that day.

The four nominees receiving the most votes are automatically elected to the Ministerial Search Committee. The Board will then appoint the final 3 nominees to serve on the MSC, working to assure a balance of age, gender, sexual orientation, active years at All Souls, and other diversities. No one, including the members of the Search Committee, will know who was elected and who was appointed.

The Ministerial Search Committee will be presented to the congregation the following Sunday, June 20, 2021!

The Ministerial Search Committee Prepares for the Search: Your new MSC will be trained in July and begin its work. It will prepare and distribute a survey to the membership, meet with focus groups from the congregation, and collect historical, financial, and operational data about All Souls.

Then the Search Committee will take the data it has gathered and use it to complete a “Congregational Record.” Ministers interested in All Souls will read the Congregational Record closely. Interested ministers will be busy through December looking closely at what the church offers for compensation and how self-aware the congregation is. And they will be most excited about the passions and dreams you share as a congregation.

The Search: The search itself will begin on January 2, 2022. At noon, all UU ministerial search committees will be able to download the “Ministerial Records” of ministers who have applied to interview with them. All Souls’ search committee will closely read the records of ministers who have applied, looking for ministers whose talents and passions are a good fit for this congregation. Quickly the MSC will select 6 to 9 ministers to interview by phone or Zoom. From those interviews the committee will choose 3 ministers to “pre-candidate” on a weekend in February or early March. Pre-candidating weekends include interviews, tours of Indianapolis, and the pre-candidating minister preaching at another church. (All Souls folks won’t be informed about any details about pre-candidating. Over 100 years of experience make it clear this part of the search must be confidential)

At the very end of March, the Search Committee invites one of the pre-candidates to be its “Ministerial Candidate.” After final contract negotiations and a background check are finished, the MSC announces the Candidate to the congregation. This leads to the last part of the search process: Candidating Week. Candidating Week is actually 8 days, Sunday until the following Sunday (probably April 24, 2022 – May 1, 2022). The candidate and the church meet each other, beginning with the minister leading Sunday worship. After the week when you all meet your Ministerial Candidate, the minister leads worship the next Sunday. Following the service there is a congregational meeting at which the congregation votes on whether to call the candidate at All Souls’ next settled minister.

The entire process is an exciting time. You will learn a lot about yourselves going through a search. And by finding the right skills, talents, longing, and calling that come together in the right person to be your next minister, you and the minister you call will begin an exciting new chapter of ministry together.

-Rev. Joel Miller, Interim Minister