Senior Pastor Search Process FAQ’s

General Questions

Q: Where can I direct further questions about the process and what to expect?

In Class: The Transition Team will visit many of our Sunday School classes.
In the Atrium: Check out the Pastor Search bulletin board
In Worship: Listen for announcements and check the Pastor Search section of the bulletin
On the Web: Click the “Senior Pastor Search Process” button on the Shallowford Website
Email us:

Phase 1: Session creates a Transition Team and IPNC to shepherd the transition process

Q: Before we hire an interim pastor, who on our staff is responsible for doing the work that Chris previously did?
A1: Reverend Catherine Foster, Associate Pastor for Mission and Discipleship, will assume the role of Acting Head of Staff focusing on staff leadership, session moderating, preaching once a month, worship management, and staffing the Personnel Committee and the Transition Team.

A2: Reverend Laura Jernigan, Parish Associate for Congregational Care, will increase her hours from 20 hours to 30 hours (or more if needed some weeks). She will focus on pastoral care with support from Catherine, preach and plan liturgy once a month, and plan adult Christian Education for the summer.

Q: Who will preach on Sundays before we hire an interim pastor?
A: Rev. Catherine Foster and Rev. Laura Jernigan will each preach once a month. We will hear from pastor friends of Shallowford on the other two Sundays.

Q: Will the Acting Head of Staff become our new senior pastor?
A: The Pastor Nominating Committee will nominate and the congregation will elect the new senior pastor. While an associate pastor technically is allowed by our polity to become the new senior pastor, this scenario is highly unlikely.

Q: Who will take over Chris’ pastoral care duties?
A: Reverend Laura Jernigan, Parish Associate for Congregational Care, will take the lead in pastoral care. She will have support from Reverend Catherine Foster. Care Ministers and all members of the congregation are encouraged to offer care and support as well.

Phase 2: The Interim Pastor is Called

Q: What is the process for hiring an interim pastor?

  • The Session appoints a Interim Pastor Nominating Committee (IPNC).
  • The IPNC develops an interim pastor job description.
  • The IPNC reviews resumes, interviews and selects a candidate for Interim Pastor.
  • The Interim Pastor Candidate is approved by the session and begins service.

Q: How can I have input into the selection of our interim pastor? Will we vote on him or her? Why not?

  • You may submit names of Interim Pastor candidates to the IPNC, [email protected]
  • The candidate should be an ordained Presbyterian Minister, and have completed Phase One of Interim Training.
  • The congregation will not vote on the Interim Pastor. It is the defined process by the PCUSA for the Session to appoint interims, and congregation elects permanent pastors.

Q: Are Interim Pastor candidates local or from other places?
A: Interim Pastor Candidates can be either local or from other Presbyteries.

Q: When do we expect to hire an interim pastor?
A: The IPNC expects to have an Interim Pastor in place by early fall.

Q: How long are we likely to have an interim pastor?

  • Interim Pastors usually serve one to one and a half years.
  • The Interim Pastor’s contract is usually for 1 year, with a 30 day termination clause for either party. After one year, the contract can be renewed, if needed.

Q: What will be his/her responsibilities/objectives?
A: The Interim will help maintain the health and life of the congregation as we prepare to welcome our new senior pastor. He or she will be in charge of: Worship Leadership, Head of Staff, Moderate Session, liaison to assigned committees, some pastoral care, and some teaching.

Q: How do we determine the Interim Pastor’s salary?
A: The compensation of the interim should be at least 90% of the previous pastor’s package and it could be higher depending on experience.

Q: If we like the Interim Pastor, can we just hire him/her as permanent Senior Pastor?
A: No. The Pastor Nominating Committee will nominate a pastor to the congregation for us to elect our Senior Pastor. The Presbytery of Greater Atlanta will not allow a congregation’s interim pastor to become its senior pastor.

Phase 3: The Congregation Elects a Pastor Nominating Committee

Q: Who determines the members of the Pastor Nominating Committee?
A: Ultimately the congregation elects the Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC). Every year, the congregation elects a Representative Nominating Committee (RNC). If a pastor search is needed at any point during the year, the RNC solicits names for the Pastor Nominating Committee from the congregation, makes a list of possible nominees, vets those candidates and determines their willingness to serve. The RNC strives to offer a balanced slate of nominees considering length of church membership, gender, age, etc. The congregation then votes on the RNC slate for the PNC at a congregational meeting.

Q: During the congregational meeting, could members be added or subtracted from the PNC?
A: Nominations from the floor may be made during the congregational meeting; however, willingness to serve must be obtained for floor nominations. The Congregation would then need to vote on a revised slate of nominees for the PNC.

Q: How can I have input into the selection of our new Senior Pastor?
A: Nominate a person you respect to serve on the PNC. You may self nominate. From June 3 through July 1, nominations may be made by ballot in the Sunday bulletins or by contacting Lyn Turknett, a member of the RNC. Once the PNC is in place, you may submit names of possible Senior Pastor candidates to the PNC for consideration.

Q: When will we start this process?
A: The process to elect a PNC begins June 3 when the RNC begins taking nominations for the PNC. They will take nominations through July 1.

Q: How many people will be on the PNC?
A: There are no rules, but for a church the size of Shallowford the PNC will likely have 7-9 members.

Q: What are the requirements for being on the PNC?
A: Members of the PNC must be active members of Shallowford. Depending on the size of the church, it is suggested that at least one elder, a member of Finance Committee and a member of Personnel Committee be on the PNC.

Phase 4: The PNC Searches for and Selects the Next Senior Pastor

Q: How long will this take?
A: The process to elect a new pastor can take up to 2 years, although there is no set time limit.

Q: Will the congregation know who has applied to be Senior Pastor?
A: No. Reviewing candidates is a confidential process.

Q: Will the congregation be kept informed of the search process?
A: Yes, the PNC and Transition Team will have general updates on the search progress.

Q: Will the PNC write a profile of the kind of person needed to be our new Senior Pastor?
A: The PNC will complete a Mission Information Form (MIF). In addition to a description of the church, this form has lists of leadership competencies and experiences required for the position.

Q: What else is included on the MIF?
A: Here is a link to a pdf of a blank MIF.

Q: Once the PNC writes the MIF, does it have to be approved before it is published?
A: Yes. Shallowford’s session and the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta must approve it.

Q: How does the PNC find candidates?
A: There are various ways: The church has an electronic matching website that will connect pastor’s PIFs with our MIF. The congregation, Presbytery, seminaries and clergy colleagues will all suggest candidates. Finally, the PNC may research and recruit potential candidates.

Q: If I know a candidate I would like to be considered, what should I do?
A: Tell a PNC member. Ask your potential candidate to submit a Personal Information Form (PIF) to the PNC. The PIF is similar to a resume. The PNC will review any PIF submitted.

Q: Does the PNC determine the final candidate by a majority vote?
A: The goal is to reach consensus on the final candidate.

Q: Does the Presbytery have to approve the Senior Pastor?
A: Yes, a Suitability of Call meeting will be held with the candidate, the PNC, and select members of the Committee on Ministry of the Presbytery. This is an important step. The Committee on Ministry may have additional information about the candidate that is helpful and/or have advice on making a smooth transition.

Q: What typically happens to a congregation’s membership and budget between senior pastors?
A: This is difficult to predict, but It depends on the church and the trajectory it is already on. There are times that membership may grow slightly and giving continues at the current pace. There are other times that membership and giving decrease.

Q: Where in the process of choosing a new Senior Pastor can the congregation be most involved?
A: Pray and care for one another. It is best not to just wait to see how this turns out. Continue to participate in the active life of the church. Let the PNC know of potential senior pastor candidates.