Church Leadership Connection (CLC) has been bringing call seekers, congregations, mid councils and other church groups together to fill open calls since 1999. This spring, the denomination’s internet-based matching and referral system is finalizing a comprehensive upgrade. Not only will the new system be more efficient, it will also be more inclusive and easier to access.

Later this month, a new CLC landing page will go live on its familiar site. Over the summer, the full transition from the old system to the new one will commence.

Sneak peek at the upcoming CLC homepage, April 2023.

Sneak peek at the upcoming CLC homepage, April 2023

CLC assists all involved in the church call process, including call-seeking pastors, committees on ministry, committees on preparation for ministry, executive presbyters, stated clerks, pastor nominating committees and clerks of session. The new system will serve even more people, with a public opportunity search tool that anyone can use to explore postings. The automated matching system will help congregations identify, invite and discern between call seeker candidates. And call seekers will be able to quickly self-refer to a congregation.

As with all church work, patient discernment has been important to the reboot effort, helping the CLC team and developers design new features that save time and center the values of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

The Rev. Manuel Silva-Esterrich, manager of Call Process Support in the Office of the General Assembly, said that the revamped system is launching in stages, with the system’s current web page (What Silva-Esterrich called “the alpha” page) being replaced by a new one (“the beta”) in two to three months.

During these testing stages, call seekers, mid council leaders and congregation leaders have been able to access both systems, supporting the work of the CLC team and development team, with active call seekers helping to test the new matching and opportunity search functions. Recent work by CLC staff members, which includes Silva-Esterrich, the Rev. Mason Todd (CLC Consultant) and Ruling Elder Eva Rebozo (CLC Consultant and Database Administrator), has included road testing the system changes and working through bugs.

When call seekers are matched with open calls, “congregations will be able to see their work, their education, where they’re from and other qualifications,” Silva-Esterrich said. “The calling group can decide if the person is someone they want to consider and invite to apply.”

That’s a change in emphasis from the current system, which is geared toward narrow categories of qualification. “Now churches will be able to focus first on the work experiences of a call seeker,” Silva-Esterrich said.

Recent General Assemblies have called for increased diversity, equity and inclusion in all areas of ministry work. Silva-Esterrich said that the reboot of CLC is an opportunity to diversify the options available to churches and mid councils and to broaden candidate pools.

Call seekers who don’t match specific criteria put forth by a calling organization will still be able to share their interest in a call using the self-referral feature. And a church or mid council will be able to invite specific call seekers to apply for a position.

“There is more than logic behind the changes to the new system,” Silva-Esterrich said. “One problem some churches have during the call process is finding a candidate who fits their traditional view of what a candidate should be. We want people to have an opportunity to come to communities where they might not have been before.”

Sample bug fixes for new system, April 2023.

Sample bug fixes for new system, April 2023

Silva-Esterrich identified other areas of improvement for the new CLC system:

  • A task-based system instead of a role-based one, allowing calling organizations more flexibility managing tasks involved in hiring a pastor, including an administrator access to help with data entry and other system work
  • Flexible matching criteria, enabling organizations calling a pastor to see applicants for other jobs, such as administrative or chaplain roles
  • Automated information sharing between call seekers and call organizations — in the current system, CLC staff are go-betweens to change candidate statuses
  • Expedited application submission and approval, speeding up a process that used to take days or weeks
  • Easy withdrawal from consideration by candidates instead of needing to notify calling groups individually, and easy notification of decisions to candidates from calling organizations
  • Improved look and user experience, including a dashboard with to-do tasks and notifications from CLC staff
  • EQUIP training videos, available to system users in the coming weeks.

Silva-Esterrich has been sharing about new CLC features on one of the nation’s most popular career sites, LinkedIn, including the new matching options, opportunity search features and “Invitation to Apply" button.

The Rev. Manuel Silva-Esterrich

The Rev. Manuel Silva-Esterrich

The new system is 75% developed. In mid-April its landing page will replace the current one, with access to the old system still available. In June the fully upgraded system will be ready. A three-month transition process will bring information from the previous system into the new one. It is projected that the old system will be turned off in August.

Figuring out all the systems changes has required hours of conversation and work at the digital drawing board, much like the work of a committee finalizing and filling a call.

“We had to narrate the process with definitions for developers to understand what they needed to map out and code,” Silva-Esterrich said. “When we saw how much work it was to do all these pieces of the puzzle, we separated processes and testing phases piece by piece. The site developers have helped us separate what we want and what we need, while keeping an eye to affordability and the project’s timeline. We will be able to update the system down the road, adding the ‘wants’ we can’t have now.

“Discernment takes time — meetings, retreat, dialogues, confrontations with ourselves. The Spirit helps us be guided toward what God wants for us.”

Silva-Esterrich said that managing the old and new systems at once while continuing to connect call seekers with call organizations has been challenging. He credits CLC colleagues Todd and Rebozo for working with the evolving system, the developer, and call-seeking parties to keep things on track. “Users who have requested support from us have been very patient,” he added.

Despite the long hours of development and testing, Silva-Esterrich remains as enthusiastic about the new CLC system as he was when planning began, prior to the pandemic.

“This work will help change people’s lives, helping them serve in a calling they’ve received. It makes the work we’re doing feel like a bridge for call seekers and church groups to meet in the middle of a system and try to understand what God is calling them all to do.”

Silva-Esterrich pointed out that the CLC logo is itself a bridge that holds a flame, lighting the way for long-standing ministries to continue and new ones to form.