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The Search Process: It is not Dating

Posted: February 14, 2014 by Rob Voyle

Are you searching for a new position?
How do you metaphorically describe the search process?
Does your metaphor help of hinder you?

Recently I worked with a pastor who described her experience and frustration of not being selected for several senior ministry positions after going through several layers of interviews and selection processes. Now she even dreaded going on an interview which she described as: "Going on a first date."

I have heard that "dating" metaphor applied to the search process many times before and just ignored it. Having spent the last few years learning how to pay attention to my clients metaphoric communication this simple metaphor of dating quickly brought into focus her resistance about going for another interview and some of the difficulties she was having in finding a new position.

If the job interview is a first date, then she is picturing her ministry as a romantic entanglement with a congregation.

Think of the implications and how often you have heard these expressions:

* I am always the bridesmaid
* The honeymoon is over
* I am divorced from the parish
* I am married to the job

Think also of how clergy spouses often feel betrayed by the relationships their partner has with their congregation.

And even going back to the interview process.
Do you remember "first dates." - yikes!

It means that the job interview evokes all the anxieties and emotions of a date, and a first date at that, rather than the intellectual curiosity of exploring professional possibilities.

The solution was also simple: This client loves to walk. Seeing the search process as: "taking a walk" with the interviewers, "walking through various options," makes profound sense to this client and it evokes her curiosity rather than her anxiety.

She also knows that some people are creative to walk with, and others are not. In her discernment she can simply ask:

"Would I like to walk with these people?" "Would walking with these people be life-giving for me and for them?" or "Would we just stumble around and get lost?"

So if you are in a search process how are you defining it?

Think about what you deeply love to do, especially those simple things like reading, walking, cooking, etc. that brings you deep satisfaction.

What would it be like to reframe your search process as an opportunity to engage in what you love to do and explore whether the essence of what you love to do would be welcome in this congregation. If it would not be welcome or wouldn't be life-giving: leave! This is not the congregation for you.

If you would like to learn more about using your parishioners or clients metaphors I encourage you to check out the Metaphor of Movement Training with Andy Austin


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See Assessing Skills and Discerning Calls to access the clergy search resources.


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About the Author

Rob Voyle

Rob Voyle

The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.

Rob's Approach to Training

  • Helpful: Training must provide practical, sustainable solutions for today's challenges.
  • Humorous: Creativity and humor go together as people enjoy new insights.
  • Healing: I create opportunities for people to experience transformational insights that lead to new ways of living, working, and being in the world.

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