How to discern new members for a vestry, parish council, or leadership group

It is no easy task to identify the best candidates for a leadership group. We cannot know what lies ahead and we may not accurately perceive the qualities needed to lead the community into the future. There may be people in our midst whose strengths we fail to recognize. And Scripture records God consistently calling people to do things for which they are not the obvious choice—individuals who do not appear to have what is needed to do what is asked of them.

Photo by Greying_Geezer. Used under a creative commons license.

In light of this, once we make an informed logical determination, we need to offer our efforts to God and enter the flow of the Holy Spirit, ready to be carried to a place where God can broaden our perspective and enhance our insight. The process is likely to require two or three meetings. A good way to set the tone is to begin each meeting with five or ten minutes of silence with the intention that everyone use that time to open their hearts and minds to the divine presence. Below are some steps you may want to follow.

  1. Reflectively develop a list of the skills, areas of expertise, and personal qualities the leadership team will need.
  2. Looking through an entire list of eligible people, identify all of the people who could contribute to the combined needs of the leadership group.
  3. In an atmosphere of prayerful silence, with the needs you identified clearly in your minds, take time adequate for everyone to review the entire list of possible candidates with an eye to diversity and balance in terms of age, gender, conservative/liberal, long-time members versus more recent members of the community, and other groupings that need representation.
  4. Reflectively share thoughts, pausing between speakers to absorb what is being said.  Allow for the possibility that some people might decline an invitation to serve. Continue until a slate of nominees and backups emerges and congeals.
  5. Next take a block of time (maybe 45 minutes, an hour, or even longer) to offer to God yourselves and all that you have done together so far. Hold it all in silence, letting creative associations percolate up from deep inside you—images from nature; passages or people from Scripture; paintings or sculpture; scenes or characters from a movie, TV program, or play; selections of music; analogies from sports or family life or history or politics. Maintain the silence, allowing opportunity for all who want to share what comes to them. When a person says something that resonates, others can build on it. Stay with it until things come together, consensus emerges, and a sense of peace settles in.
  6. Then review the list of nominees in light of your time of group meditation, making modifications if indicated.
  7. Conclude with free and open prayers.

Listening Hearts has DISCERNMENT LISTENING GUIDELINES that provide good norms for a nominating group to use when seeking God’s guidance as it discerns candidates. These guidelines can be found in Appendix 1 of Grounded in God by Farnham, Hull, and McLean or on the Listening Hearts website. Attractive laminated copies can be ordered from the Listening Hearts office by e-mailing listening@verizon.net.