Friday, January 10, 2014

The New UCC Profile Process Part 3: Web Links

Note: This is the third installment of a multi-part series of posts about the new UCC Profile Process.

Find Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.
I've been involved in ministry through the internet a full two decades now. I actually successfully recruited students for my campus ministry programming online beginning in 1994. As the internet has evolved, I have done my best to stay current--Blogging, podcasting, YouTube videos, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest--I'm an old hand at many forms of Internet communication. In spite of all this, I have to admit--figuring out how to present myself to search committees via web links has been a struggle for me. Through trial and error I continue to change (and, I hope, improve) my web presence. I don't have all the answers and don't expect I ever will, but I can let you know about the things I have done that have worked well, and the things that basically backfired.
First I'll give you the list of things you should included, and then I'll go through the pitfalls I've encountered and offer suggestions for how to avoid them.
DO provide a link to the website of your current church if you are employed as a Pastor, or if you are an active lay person or an Intern.
DO provide a link to a sermon video and sermon podcasts (if you have any podcasts).
DO provide a link to some photos of you "in action" in your ministry.
Now for the pitfalls. Spoiler alert: There are many, and I have fallen into all of them, at one time or other.
Pitfall #1: Link is incorrect and doesn't work.
How to avoid it: Check and re-check every link to make sure it works.
Pitfall #2: Link goes to a web address that no longer exists.
How to avoid it: Again, check and check again.
Pitfall #3: Link goes to the correct website, but search committees are forced to search for the content you want them to see.
How to avoid it: Minimize the number of clicks it takes to get to the content you want search committees to see as much as you can. For example, if you maintain a Pastor's blog or "getting to know the Pastor" page on your church website and you want the search committee to see that, make sure you provide a link directly to that page, or to a page that consolidates your links. (Learn more about consolidating links in Part 2 of this series.) If you are still having trouble doing this after reading the hints I've offered, ask someone who is more web-savvy to help you with it.
Pitfall #4: Too much information.
How to avoid it: Provide them with web content about your ministry that is well-curated. Don't provide them with links to half-a-dozen sermons and hundreds of photos of your most recent mission trip. Don't send them to a website that will distract them with lots of extraneous information about you that has no relevance to your job search. This is the mistake I have made most often. Bombarding search committees with links to everywhere you have a presence on the web is distracting and counter-productive. Focus like a laser beam on providing the answer to one question: "What can this person do for our congregation (or ministry)?"
Pitfall #5: It's difficult to construct a representative online persona.
How to avoid it: This is my number one struggle with my web presence currently. I'm an exuberant, creative person with strong opinions. I'm also petite in stature, a recovering shy person and I can be quite soft-spoken and gentle in manner. My web presence tends to come on like a Mack Truck. Search committees that love this can be underwhelmed when the meet me. Search committees intimidated by this take a pass on interviewing me. I'm constantly adding, subtracting and changing my online presence based on feedback I'm getting from search committees. I think it is important not to be too reactive--some churches are just not a match, and you shouldn't try and misrepresent yourself online. That will prevent you from making a match with a church that is just right for you.  By the same token, if their impression of you does not match reality, you need to adapt the information you are putting out there. What sorts of things are "too much?" I'll try and provide a helpful example. I enjoy arranging flowers and decorating cakes in my free time, and I have photos of some of my projects posted online. Members of  search committees actually began asking me if I would have time for my job, since I have passions that I pursue in my free time. I thought I was presenting a picture of a healthy, well-rounded person who maintains my emotional well-being by engaging appropriately in recreational activities, but really I was just distracting them from focusing on what I was going to do for them as a Pastor. Lesson learned.
Note: This is the third installment of a multi-part series of posts about the new UCC Profile Process.
Find Part 1, which provides a review and overview of the process here, and Part 2, in which I discuss a strategy for providing web links, here.
I blog, therefore I am. If you liked this post and want some food for thought about church ministry, check out If you or anyone you know is looking to hire a new Pastor, check out my professional profile blog at
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