This is the last week of the old Church Leadership Connection (CLC) system, following a summer-long transition of the online placement system to a new one.

According to the Rev. Manuel Silva-Esterrich, manager of Call Process Support in the Office of the General Assembly, on Sept. 1 all access to the old system will shut down. From that date forward, “only CLC administrators will be able to access the old system.”

“We plan to send all active ministry information forms (MIFs) and pastor information forms (PIFs) to the site’s users by email, so they can keep the information and transition it to the ministry discernment profiles (MDPs) in the new system, if they need to,” Silva-Esterrich said. He asked participants to let CLC staff members know about any pending call notifications by emailing Staff members will log those notifications into the system.

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It's an especially busy week for the CLC team, but Silva-Esterrich found time to answer questions about the system change. His answers below have been edited for length.

How has the transition to the new system been going overall?

It had been a time of learning, adapting and relearning for everyone. Our CLC consultants and myself have been able to train almost 30 presbytery committees on ministry (COMs) and pastor nominating committees (PNCs) as well as synod executives. Our manager for Korean congregation relations, the Rev. Josh Park, has been leading the translations of many of the forms and training constituents and leaders in the use of CLC in Korean.

Statistics-wise, today there are around 1,300 call seekers with accounts in the system and only 278 submitted active personal discernment profiles (PDPs). On the congregation side there are 495 search committees in the system from our mid councils and congregations and 222 released MDPs. Our first completed call was recorded in the beginning of August and two other calls were completed outside of CLC after submitting the MDPs into the system.

What are some hurdles you’ve encountered since the new system’s June launch?

Thanks to the magnitude and variety of users, we have been able to encounter multiple errors that have been handled by the CLC team and the team of developers. Every week we get half a dozen reports of really important issues. Currently, I can say the system, even though not perfect, is running much better than the old one, with real time users active in the call process. We expected the transition to be challenging and haven’t been disappointed! With God’s help we have endured and triumphed along the way.

What has been the response from users — good and not so good?

We have received many notifications from highly frustrated [siblings], and it’s understandable. In a process of transitioning, change can be frustrating. There is a saying in Puerto Rico, “Nadie nace aprendido,” which translates as “Nobody’s born with everything learned.” When new things approach us, our responsibility is to educate ourselves about them. That educational process has been crucial for all types of users in the system.

I just returned from a training with the Synod of the Sun where the response from all leaders who approached me was one of gratefulness, curiosity and a desire to learn more about the new system. We have received messages from people all over the denomination thanking the CLC team for its support, time and patience. Every one of us — Ruling Elder Eva Rebozo, the Rev. Mason Todd, myself — identifies with the frustrations of participants and wants to reassure them they will learn how to complete their tasks in the system, if not today then soon.

Synod of the Sun CLC training, 2023. Photo by Manuel Silva-Esterrich.

Synod of the Sun CLC training, 2023. Photo by Manuel Silva-Esterrich.

Any new CLC training videos in the works? Upcoming system updates? 

Our communication team is finishing the touches for the task tutorial videos, Eva is working on other resources for training mid council leaders and PNCs and the Korean and Spanish translations have a completion goal of December 2023. We will plan another webinar later in October, when the system is even more advanced, for the transitions that occur with committee chairs.

As for updates, the development team is working to bring better format boxes to different areas in the MDPs and PDPs so that numbering, pearls and other options are available for users. We’re also working on adding new, and more specific, narrative questions for specific positions.

Big picture, what have you learned during this entire process?

The importance of listening, planning, testing, listening, replanning, retesting and continuing to listen. We are here to serve, the system is here to serve. The only way we can look forward with growth in mind is understanding needs, processes and limitations. CLC is a call placement tool developed and maintained by Per Capita gifts, and as such will benefit from continuing investment over time.

What else would you like folks to know about Church Leadership Connection moving forward?

The CLC system adapts to the changes that occur in our denomination. We hope to be able to give call seekers the option of having their PDP available for any search committee to see, because availability and exposure is good for call seekers. We also hope to provide presbyteries with a tool so commissioned ruling elders or commissioned pastors can seek positions inside their presbyteries.

Additionally, we hope to study a process that would welcome partner organizations and denominations to post opportunities in our system as part of our ecumenical relationships. My dream is to give our users the ability to host face-to-face events in our CLC system too.

The system already supports PC(USA) congregations, mid councils and agencies, and through them the work and benefits our different agencies provide to seminaries, our partners and the church around the world. But as the system grows it should expand into multiple new possibilities for all of us.

This transition, as with any congregational or organizational transition, has been full of discernment by a lot of people. Just like the people in the 1990s who conceived of this revolutionary tool for the church, a system secular groups later copied, we believe we are on the brink of a new era of social interaction in the call process. Connecting is the start of creativity, and there is a lot to explore in being creative.

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