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Conflict to Collaboration

New Appreciative Way
Clergy Search Manual

Assessing Skills and Discerning Calls


  • Theological Perspective of the Search Process
  • Overview of Appreciative Inquiry
  • Designing a Transitional Ministry to Support the Search.
  • Conducting a Congregational
    Appreciative Inquiry Summit
  • Developing Job Requirements
  • Evaluating Supplemental Written Questions
  • Evaluating a Structured Interview
  • Checking References and Past Performance
  • Assessing Work Samples Such as Preaching and Celebrating
  • Discernment; Vestry Interviewing and Simulated Vestry Retreat Exercises


  • Readily Adaptable to Specific Parish Needs
  • Copyright Licenses Available for Congregational Use
  • Augments Adjudicatory and National Church Procedures

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Assessing Skills and Discerning Calls

A comprehensive clergy search manual by Appreciative Way authors Rob and Kim Voyle.

The Appreciative Way suggests that we need to focus our search strategies on:

  • What are we as a congregation like at our best and where is our best taking us?
  • What do we want to become as a parish?

Once these questions are answered then the focus can turn to the candidates.

  • What are the candidates like at their best?
  • Can we as a congregation provide a context for the pastor to be at their best?
  • Can the pastor provide a context for the congregation to be at their best?
  • Can we together, congregation and pastor mutually discover God's presence and purpose?

Behind these questions is the idea that effective ministry occurs when clergy and congregations create a context that calls forth the best from each other, and within that best to discover the mystery of God's presence, purpose and calling.

This appreciative approach contrasts many search processes which ultimately get decided on whether or not each party can tolerate the worst that the other has done and is likely to do. The appreciative approach does not gloss over these problems or flaws but goes beyond them to discern if a positive foundation can be found to establish a productive ministry relationship.

Theological Perspective

We used the Biblical Model for the calling of Mathias (Acts 1:21-26) in developing Assessing Skills and Discerning Calls. When the Apostles needed to Judas they used a four step process:

  • They understood they had a purpose or mission to fulfill.
  • They set criteria for effective job performance.
  • They assessed potential candidates with respect to the criteria.
  • From a list of qualified candidates, discern who God is calling to the position.

These four steps are crucial for effective clergy calling. In our experience difficulties in the search process arise primarily for three reasons:

  • The congregation has little idea of its purpose and what it wants to become.
  • No clear search criteria are agreed to so the search committee members are simply looking for their individual ideal pastor without regard for the whole.
  • The tasks of assessing skills and discerning calls is confused. Assessing competence is an essential prerequisite to engaging in discernment.
    It is impossible to effectively engage in discernment when some of the candidates being discerned over are incompetent with respect to the criteria.

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