Pastoral Search


A PNC was elected by the congregation on January 26, 2020, and has been tasked with searching for our next installed Senior Minister. The committee is comprised of members of different generations, as well as the various ministries at First Presbyterian Church.

Pastoral Search - Discussion Groups

Please begin your preparation now to participate in a Discussion Group meeting as one of our discussion partners.

These meetings are for members only.  The discussions will take exactly 90 minutes, they will begin exactly at the appointed time, and will end exactly 90 minutes later.  Everyone who attends will absolutely have an opportunity to speak – even if you are shy!  Dr. Benz will explain more about the process when you arrive, but you can rest assured, it will, indeed, be a lot of fun, AND you will be rewarded with chocolate just for showing up!

This is your best opportunity to have your voice heard, so please sign up for one of the Discussion Groups!  You may use the link below to sign up, or call the church office and we will do it for you.  The Discussion Groups have been scheduled for various times (morning, afternoon, and evening!) on various days in an effort to have a time available for everyone who would like to participate.  If none of the dates work for you, let us know and we will do our best to add another group.  Do not miss this opportunity!

All meetings will be held in the Session Room right off the Memorial Gallery.

All meetings will BEGIN ON TIME, so please plan to arrive a couple of minutes early so you can get seated and get settled.

Meetings will also END ON TIME, so you may also feel free to make plans afterwards and not have to worry about being late!

All meetings are “self-selected,” meaning that whomever signs up and shows up is who participates together!  Some folks are more comfortable attending Discussion Groups with those whom they know well, such as a spouse or small group friend, and others do not have an opinion either way … and either one is just fine.  Do what is most comfortable for you.  JUST COME TO ONE!

Dr. Cynthia M. Benz, our interim Senior Minister, will facilitate all the meetings.  As information, the First Presbyterian Church of Gastonia is her 10th interim and she has conducted this process in every church she has served, and in every church, it has proven to be phenomenally successful.  Please do not miss out on this opportunity to participate in calling your next installed Senior Minister.

In addition to Dr. Benz, one or two members of the Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) will be present to observe – they will not participate in the discussion.  Although there will be an extensive report produced for the PNC with valuable information once the Discussion Groups are completed, there are certain things, emotions, in particular, that do not translate well into a written report, so it works well for them to witness it firsthand; it helps them understand the passion with which some thoughts are expressed.

This is an exciting time in the life of the First Presbyterian Church!  Come be a part of this very important process.  The PNC needs your help and your continued prayers!!

Pastoral Search - Discussion Group Questions

In preparation for the meeting, the very most important thing for you to do is:
It is critical for everyone to understand that the only way to be successful in a call process is for everyone to keep the process, and their participation in it, in their prayers.  You are being provided with the exact questions (below) that will be asked in every Discussion Group, so that you can pray over them and ask God to lead you to the answers that would be pleasing to God. This will help the PNC identify the person God has already identified to be your next Senior Minister.

The questions to PRAY OVER are as follows:

What are some of the spiritual gifts/leadership skills with which you believe God gifted <former pastors’ names>?  What gifts/skills could they have benefited from having?  

What are the things about your church that delight you that you believe are pleasing to God?  What are some concerns you have about your church that you believe God may be calling you to address?

What one change would you make at your church that you believe would be most pleasing to God?

What is getting in the way of your church being able to fully worship and glorify God?

Understanding that we are first and foremost called to worship and glorify God, what has not been asked that you believe would be helpful for the session to hear and for the PNC to consider in seeking a new pastor?

Continued Prayers During the Pastoral Search

For the Pastor Nominating Committee
  • Pray that we will have the mind of Christ and be unified (Psalm 133)
  • Pray for wisdom to choose the right person
  • Pray for discipline in our team and our church leadership
For Our Next Senior Minister
  • Pray that God will give him or her a love for First Presbyterian Church and strength to leave their current position
  • Pray that God would prepare our future Senior Minister  to shepherd the flock lovingly and faithfully
  • Pray for the next Senior Minister's family, if he or she has one, that they would also be convinced of the Lord’s leading for this move
For Members of First Presbyterian Church
  • Regularly encourage the members of the PNC
  • PRAY PRAY PRAY PRAY PRAY for the PNC that God will strengthen, equip, and lead them in this all-important task
How many of these can you identify???
  • COM
  • BOO
  • MIF
  • PNC
  • CLC
  • EP/GP
  • CPM
  • PIF
  • BOC
Presbyterian Acronymns
In searching for a new installed pastor here at First Presbyterian  Church, we will encounter quite a few acronyms – the Presbyterian Church is famous for them!  As information, here are the ones we will likely encounter the most, along with brief explanations.
  • BOC – Book of Confessions.  This is Part I of the two parts of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  It begins with the “Nicene Creed,” which is the oldest, and the newest edition to the BOC includes “The Belhar Confession,” making a total of 12.
  • BOO – Book of Order.  This is Part II of the two parts of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  This is more of a daily guide to how to be a good Presbyterian, which includes four sections: Foundations, Government, Worship, Discipline.
  • CLC – Church Leadership Connection.  This is the denomination’s department (and website) that helps match churches and pastors who are searching.    (
  • COM – Committee on Ministry.  Ministers are not members of a congregation, they are members of the presbytery and, in most presbyteries, are under the auspices of the COM, who appoints a liaison to walk alongside congregations as they search for a pastor.
  • CPM – Committee on Preparation for Ministry.  When women and men are called to ministry, and typically while they are in seminary, they are under the care of a presbytery’s CPM, which works with, encourages, and guides them in the process of becoming a Presbyterian minister.
  • EP/GP – Executive Presbyter/General Presbyter.  This is an administrative member of the presbytery staff with a multitude of duties, not the least of which is to give pastoral care to ministers, work with and guide churches when they are in conflict, and serve as a resource to the many committees and commissions of the presbytery.  During the search process, an EP/GP’s main function is as a resource for any number of issues that may arise, and do “red flag checks” on possible candidates (a reference check of sorts with the candidate’s EP/GP).
  • MIF – Ministry Information Form.  This is a ten page ministry narrative document that describes the church and the kind of pastor for whom it is searching.  It is typically put together by the PNC, based on the information gathered from the congregation by various means.  It is approved by the session (who actually “owns” the document), then by the presbytery (the COM), and finally is uploaded into the denomination’s CLC database, which is where the matching process takes place.  (If it sounds similar to a computer dating program – you’re right!  It is!) 
  • PCUSA – Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  This is the mainline denomination of which we are members.  There are other Presbyterian denominations (Presbyterian Church of America, Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians, Cumberland Presbyterian, and a few more), so in your communications it is helpful to state which one we are.
  • PIF – Personal Information Form.   We affectionately refer to this as a “Presbyterian resume.”  When a church is searching for a pastor, it is very helpful for the search committee to be able to compare apples to apples when reviewing information.  The PIF is similar in format to the MIF, in order for matching to take place.  This is a twelve page document, including one page of instructions. 
  • PNC – Pastor Nominating Committee.  In other words, the SEARCH COMMITTEE!  These are the church members who will seek to discern the person God has already identified as your next pastor.  It is, indeed, a spiritual process.  It is also an arduous, time-consuming, and oftentimes emotional process.  There is no way to predict exactly how long it will take the PNC to identify God’s person, but it is usually 12-24 months (clock typically begins when the interim minister arrives, not when the former pastor leaves).  The faithful servants on the PNC will be trained together, study scripture together, pray together, participate in team building exercises (which is far more important than you might imagine), and do the hard work of the search.  What they need from you more than anything is your prayerful support.  Pray early, pray often!!  Pray, pray, pray, pray, PRAY!