The following is from James Cherian. James was part of the original planting team of the Ithaca Vineyard, and has been on staff in various roles since then. He is currently a member of the Pastoral Search Team (PST).

Usually, when I think of meetings and committees and group projects, I think of a million other things I’d rather be doing.
Being on the Pastoral Search Team has been a different story- It’s actually fun and exciting.
I look forward to doing the work in preparation for our meetings, and enjoy the time we have together.

The things I most dread about these types of meetings (long, pointless debates, passive aggressive personalities, lowest common denominator decisions) have been met with a refreshing, thoughtful, engaging, and meaningful process in discerning who it is that God wants as the next lead pastor of the Ithaca Vineyard and to see this transition happen in a healthy way for all those involved.

The people God placed on this team play no small part in this being so. I am grateful for that.

A few months ago, when we met with John Elmer (our Area Pastoral Care Leader) to discuss our search process, I jotted down: “If this whole thing is successful, know that it was all because of God.” Though, we’re still a long way off before we can say this process was ‘successful’, it’s been very exciting to see how God has been at work through this.

It would be hard to write down every detail of this process, but I thought it would be helpful to give the church a better idea of the journey we’ve been on.

The very basic job posting we started off with states:
“The Vineyard Church of Ithaca is currently seeking a lead pastor
starting in June 2012. Ithaca is a college town (Cornell University,
Ithaca College, Tompkins Cortland Community College) in Central NY.
The Ithaca Vineyard was planted in 1999, and during the semester
averages about 200 people during Sunday attendance.  This is a
full-time position.

The successful candidate will have strong teaching/communication
skills; a passion for reaching out to a secular community; a
commitment to Vineyard Values and Kingdom Theology, as well as
Spiritual Formation and Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.  This
position will also provide the opportunity to serve as a Chaplain at
Cornell University.”

The Pastoral Search Team then began to process what this job looks like through the filter of our Vision and Values.

It never hurts to repeat them, so straight from the website:<


The Vineyard Church of Ithaca Exists to:

Demonstrate God’s love, mercy, and compassion to those in the Greater Ithaca area who are distant from Jesus and His church,draw people into relationship with Him and us, minister healing into their lives, and equip them for ministry, giving them the best opportunity to become fully developing followers of Jesus Christ,


We value the kingdom of God:

We believe the kingdom of God, which is the future reign of God breaking into the present through the life and ministry of Jesus, is the overarching and integrating theme of the Bible. We are committed to proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God and to bearing witness to the “already and not yet” of the kingdom in our words and deeds—through healing (physical, emotional, and social), doing justice, and setting free those held captive by evil.

We value embracing the sacred in every aspect of life:

We believe that our whole life is set apart for Christ and His purposes.  We view life in an integrated, holistic manner, rejecting the idea that there are “sacred & secular” aspects of life. We welcome God’s presence, seeking to be attentive to what “the Father is doing,” and supporting His work with our whole lives. We value an approach to God’s presence that is respectful both of God and others. We eschew hype and other efforts to manipulate either God’s presence or the response of others to his presence.  We are committed to being open to the leading of the Holy Spirit and responding in a way that is naturally supernatural whether we are at church, home, work, school, or wherever.

We value living life together:

We do not want to be just a collection of individuals or a large crowd. God is looking for us to be a community of people who have joined his mission in the world – because following Jesus happens in the context of relationships, not in isolation. We aim to build up the church, and each other through maintaining mutual respect, open communication, determined cooperation, and believing and speaking the best about each other.

We value ministry based on the compassion of Jesus

We believe that mercy is fundamental to all that God does in salvation. We therefore aim to extend compassion to one another, and to each person God brings into our lives. We believe that the church does not exist for itself, but rather to actively demonstrate God’s mercy to all. We are committed to being generous in every aspect of our lives, to “give away our best,” whether people or resources, in order to expand God’s Kingdom.

We value being culturally relevant in our mission:

We believe that the church exists for the sake of those who are distant from God. We are called to bring the gospel of the kingdom to Ithaca, and beyond, faithfully translating the message of Jesus in language and forms that are relevant to diverse tribes and cultures. We seek to develop an atmosphere where people can feel relaxed and at home. Therefore, we want every expression of ours – whether speech, music, architecture, or manner – to be non-hyped, natural, reality based and in touch with the current culture of our community.

After much discussion, we came up with some important characteristics and qualities we’d be looking for in light of our Vision and Values.

Distilling that list, we found 3 things that would be the primary responsibility of the lead pastor.

They are (not to the exclusion of other characteristics and qualities):
-Setting and maintaining direction and vision of the church.
-Main teaching pastor (majority of Sunday’s).
-Equipping and developing leaders.

Again all these things are from the lens of our Vision and Values- things that distinctly make us who we are.

We took time to pray through and engage thoughtfully with each other, and really ingest all these core things we were looking at.

As a person who’s been at the church for a while, these statements are more than just words- they are central to who we are as an expression of Christ’s body.

It’s part of our job as pastors to instill this in others.  So it was a good learning experience to work thru these together in a small group of people, and hear how they saw and processed these core ideas; and to get feedback on how well we were communicating the Vision and Values, what was working, what wasn’t, etc.  Through all this, I believe we’re really coming to a place where we’re more and more understanding who God called us to be and become as a church.

Equipped with this cooperative understanding, we drafted questions to try and discern which candidate could be the right person to lead as pastor.

Of course, we are doing the ‘typical’ things of a search team: weigh strengths/weaknesses of each candidate, weigh strengths/weaknesses of our church, listen to their messages, check references, research resume’s, etc.

As Bob mentioned, we’re in the midst of the interview process now, and it’s really exciting meeting these candidates and talking about who they are and who we are.

At the end of the day, no instrument or method we come up with is going to be perfect.  We rely on God, ask for his wisdom and strength, and to the best of his enabling in us, make a decision- realizing that ultimately this is Christ’s church, His body.