The Pastor Church Resources (PCR) office has launched a new online process by which churches and pastors can find each other.

Called PastorSearch, this new arrangement will give search committees special access to a database of all active, ordained CRC pastors, and this will enable the search committees to generate a list of possibilities for an open position, said Cecil VanNiejenhuis, codirector of PCR.

Meanwhile, pastors can see which positions in churches have openings through the Church Jobs section of The Network (a website of crcna.org).

In the new PastorSearch system, “there will be some capacity for search committees to do basic filtering of the list of active, ordained ministers. And there will continue to be a need for in-depth profiles, personal conversations, and persistent prayer in the search process,” said VanNiejenhuis.

For the past 20 years, the Ministerial Information Service (MIS) has done this matching, operating with a combination of technology and an investment of time by staff and volunteers, said Jeanne Kallemeyn, staff ministry specialist for PCR.

The MIS committee normally met every 4-6 weeks, reviewed the church profiles sent to them by search committees, and responded, upon request from the search committees, by sending profiles of ministers for them to consider.

The minister profiles sent were identified by a computer-generated list of matching criteria along with personal knowledge that MIS committee members had of pastors.

MIS — a committee made up of PCR staff, the Candidacy Committee director, a Calvin Theological Seminary representative, and two CRC pastors — will continue to exist, although with a different role.

“Over the past few years, it became increasingly apparent that this system was in need of improvement in order to serve congregations and pastors well,” said Kallemeyn. “Along the way, the computer-matching function seemed less helpful. And a growing number of ministers were unfamiliar to MIS committee members.”

As a result, PCR, with the help of the CRC’s IT department, explored ways to facilitate and encourage more direct engagement between churches and ministers.

Recently pastors have been given the ability to create and update their profiles in a secure, online portal. With the new PastorSearch process, search committees will be given special access to some of the information in that portal and will have the ability to sort, filter, view, and download minister profiles online.

PCR staff will continue to offer some assistance for ministers and search committees in this process. For example, MIS (in its new role) could, upon request, review and supplement lists of pastors generated by search committees. Also, a PCR staff member will be available to answer questions and assist search teams and pastors to navigate PastorSearch.

In addition, the Church Jobs section of the CRC Network will be the prime location for churches to post their position openings and links to their church profile. Pastors seeking a new position can check this Church Jobs section for open positions and can download church profiles, if available.

“Already, the Church Jobs section is a growing, flourishing reality for the listing of church positions. Ministers are also able to post their availability for call on this site,” said Kallemeyn.

“The goal of this new process is to assist churches and pastors in accessing the information they need to begin conversations as directly as possible,” said VanNiejenhuis.

At the same time, certain challenges remain in the new system.

The first has to do with ensuring that the information in profiles is accurate. There is no enforceable mechanism within CRC church polity or church culture to ensure that ministers or churches keep their profiles current.

The second challenge has to do with expectations in this age in which consumer-marketing sites use advanced algorithms to find instant information based on refined searches—and churches imagine that this technology could allow a simpler and surer route to finding the “perfect fit.”

“In reality,” said VanNiejenhuis, “the infrastructure and budget required to approximate Amazon or Google or eHarmony searches are out of scale for a denomination of just over 1,000 churches. And it must be said that some of our expectations are unrealistic. Technology can only be partially helpful in a pastor-search process.”

The desire and expectation is that PastorSearch is a helpful tool for pastors and churches finding each other in a way that honors all those involved and forwards the building of the kingdom of God.