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Searching for a Pastor: The Presbyterian Way

By Dean E. Foose
Geneva. 2001. 114 pp. Pb. $9.95.
ISBN 0-664-50041-2

Reviewed by Freda Gardner, Princeton, N.J.

The subtitle of this book is "A Roadmap for Pastor Nominating Committees." It is well chosen and Dean Foose, director of alumni/ae relations and placement at Princeton Seminary, is well qualified to describe a way for congregations and pastors to discover their respective callings.

His work with prospective and experienced pastors, his knowledge of our denomination’s ways of discerning the needs of a congregation and the gifts of a person or a couple seeking a call, his personal experience as a pastor — these become gifts to a pastor (or associate pastor) nominating committee eager to be faithful to the work to which it has been called.

Foose describes the stages of the process, identifying the reasons for and the values expressed in each. He recognizes the discouragements that committees may face and offers helpful suggestions for dealing with them. In moving from the bewilderment and mixed expectations in the early stages of the process to the culminating joy of presenting a worthy candidate to the congregation and supporting the leadership transition and, finally, to the closure needed by the committee members who have given and received much along the way, this book is an excellent guide.

Foose speaks of the significance of the relationships among the members of the committee and how that relationship will nurture their work and help them to accomplish their purpose. Reading and discussing this book at the beginning of a pastor nominating committee’s life together would make an important contribution to the shaping of that relationship.

The appendices include essential and relevant Book of Order material as well as excellent and clear suggestions for preparing the necessary forms, ways to read personal information forms (PIFs) from potential candidates, sample questions for interviews, advice about visiting likely candidates and a detailing of the components of the contract and compensation to be offered.

The book is easy to read, clear in what it offers, always viewing the task of a pastor nominating committee (PNC) as a privileged form of ministry. In doing so, however, Foose is mindful of problems that emerge for many PNCs and makes valuable suggestions for eliminating them before they arise or for dealing with them when they occur.

As a member of a recent PNC that worked together for a long time, I can say that this book would have been a valuable reference. I am sure that it will serve that need for PNCs of all kinds and sizes of churches.

The reward for the PNC — in following a proven and effective process — will be joy in your stewardship and in the gift you will give to your church. It will also be a gift for you as a committee as you share in an effort marked by incredible learning, a renewed reliance on and appreciation of the Spirit’s leading and a heightened appreciation of God’s calling the church into being and sustaining it for the ministry of Christ in and to the world.