The beginning of a new year typically brings a surge of activity for congregations in search of pastors as well as for ministers and other church professionals in search of new calls.

As this year begins, the Church Leadership Connection (CLC) is offering resources to help call seekers and calling organizations find each other more easily. The CLC is the internet-based matching and referral system of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

A Face-to-Face event, January 31–February 1, at the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE) conference in San Jose, California, will bring together call seekers and representatives of congregations and other calling organizations. There is no cost to participate in the event, but participants must register by January 15 here.

A Face-to-Face event is something like a job fair, says the Reverend SanDawna Ashley, coordinator of leadership development for the PC(USA) and point person for CLC. “We provide the space and opportunity for individuals to connect,” she explains. The connections can range from formal interviews to informal conversations.

While previous Face-to-Face events at APCE have been limited to church educators, this year’s event is open to pastors, educators, and other types of positions. Participants do not need to be registered for the APCE conference in order to attend.

Participating in a Face-to-Face event can save time and money for church organizations, Ashley says. Employers can meet with multiple candidates without the expense of bringing prospects in from out of town.

Whether or not they can make it to San Jose, Ashley encourages call seekers and calling organizations to take advantage of the process and resources provided by CLC. Updated last August, the PC(USA) matching and referral system is more efficient and user-friendly than it used to be, she says.

Members of United Presbyterian Church in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, will testify to that. After a CLC-facilitated search process that lasted about eight months, the congregation found a new pastor—the Reverend Chris McCurdy, who begins work this month.

“We’re thrilled with what happened,” says Melissa Aul, chair of the church’s pastor nominating committee. She says the committee appreciated having access to a large data base and knowing that candidates in the system had been vetted. “We had confidence that there were levels of support and oversight.”

McCurdy, who began searching for a new call last May, says his contacts with church nominating committees increased after the CLC system upgrade in August. And “the churches I was put in contact with were better matches,” he adds.

The CLC enables a nationwide search and is designed so that only compatible matches are referred to users. “If you do the search on your own,” Ashley says, “you can spend a lot of time and energy going through applications of people who may not be the proper fit or who are not qualified for the position.”

The CLC system has been expanded to include not only pastors and educators but many types of positions, including calls with presbyteries and synods and at the national level of the denomination and positions with PC(USA) colleges, retirement facilities, and other institutions.

Ashley finds that one of the biggest barriers for both call seekers and calling organizations is an overly restricted search process. For example, a congregation may be reluctant to consider a woman or racial ethnic candidate for pastor if the only pastors they’ve ever had were white males. Or a minister seeking a call may limit the search to one particular geographic area.

“If people are open to the Spirit of God and to go wherever the call is, they have a much better chance of getting a call,” Ashley says.

McCurdy encourages call seekers using CLC to take advantage of the opportunity to include links to online material that might give potential employers “an idea about your personal flavor.” For example, on his information form he included a link to a humorous YouTube video that he had made to promote a church softball game.

“It raised our eyebrows—but in a good way,” Aul says of McCurdy’s video. “It gave us a sense of him as a person. We were seeking someone with spiritual maturity but who didn’t take himself too seriously.”

Aul says the CLC search process offered “an easy way for folks to find us.” She believes it also created room for the Holy Spirit to work. “I think God would work through whatever process was there, but this process made it easier.”

For more information about Church Leadership Connection or the Face-to-Face event at APCE, contact the Reverend SanDawna Ashley at 502-569-5730 or sandawna.ashley@pcusa.org.

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