As a member of the Pastor Search Team of Grove Avenue Baptist Church, I gladly covenant to participate in the work of the team according to the following agreements.

Covenant of Ethical Behavior
I agree to relate to each member in a manner consistent with the ethical standards characterized by Jesus Christ.

Covenant of Spiritual Preparation
I agree to make Bible study and prayer ongoing priorities in my life.

Covenant of Prayer
I agree to pray daily for each team member and for the work of the church.

Covenant of Unity
I agree to work in unity, not regarding myself as of more value than others, “diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us” (Eph. 4:3).

Covenant of Honesty and Openness
I agree to be honest and open with others on the team, always seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance so that the fruit of the Spirit identified in Galatians 5:22-23 will characterize my participation.

Covenant of Confidentiality
I agree to refrain from discussing with persons outside the team information shared in team meetings, unless the team agrees to release information to other church members.

Covenant of Faithfulness
I agree to remain faithful to the church and its ministries so that church members will have confidence in the team and so that I can effectively and honestly interpret the work of the church to prospective pastors being considered by the team.

Team Profiles:

The nine members of the Pastor Search Team were chosen by the Nominating Committee after considerable prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit. The slate of nine members was presented to the Church membership and elected.  The Search Team began meeting in early February 2019. The Search Team members are:

Ralph Cantrell, Chair
Ralph has been at Grove for over 5 years and previously served on the Personnel Committee. He has held several high-level leadership positions in government and private industry, and he served four years as Church Administrator at another Baptist Church.  Ralph is excited to be serving with the other members of the Search Team and serving the Lord in this capacity.

Heather Howells, Vice Chair
Heather has been a member at Grove for over 5 years.  Her husband, Chase Howells currently serves as a Deacon, and the Howells host a small group on Sunday mornings. Heather also serves in the nursery rotation on Sunday mornings. Chase and Heather are also blessed with a son, Henry! Heather is grateful for this opportunity to serve and support Grove on the Pastor Search Committee.

Elbert Smith, Prayer Chair

Bonnie Northen, Secretary
I began attending Grove at the age of six when Byron Wilkinson was the pastor.  Through the years, I have been a regular part of the ministries here at Grove.  At age 25 I realized that all that I learned was head knowledge.  I was convicted that I was personally the reason Jesus had to die and I agreed with Him about my sin and was baptized at age 25.  I have never looked back.  I love the Grove family as my whole family (parents, sister’s family, my children and grandchildren) has participated in many aspects of ministry here.  It is a privilege to serve on the Pastor Search Committee seeking who God has for us as our new Pastor.

Mathew Cherian
Mathew has been attending Grove since 2000.  He and his wife, Elizabeth, are blessed with two children (Rebecca and Jeremiah) who attended Grove Christian School for all their education.  Mathew serves in the Deacon Ministry, AWANA, and six years on the Grove Christian Board.

Kathy Macon
Kathy has been a member of Grove since relocating to Richmond in 2011.  She has served on the nominating committee of a previous church in NC. Kathy has been serving at Grove in the AWANA ministry and as 2nd grade Sunday School co-teacher with Jay Melton. She is passionate about helping children learn to trust the God of the Bible and in His loving rescue plan through Christ our Savior. Kathy is honored to represent the Children’s ministry while serving the Grove body on the Pastor Search Team.

Teresa Custalow Hobbs

Ryan Baham

Mike McGraw

Pastor Search Process

The Search Team has divided its work into four distinct steps, or phases.  They are the Preparation, Search, Interview, and Calling phases.  In the following explanation, each of these phases is described in more detail.  The CURRENT STATUS section will provide the reader the ability to track the work of the Search Team.

Preparation Phase

  • Members read Pastor Search Committee Handbooks provided by Lifeway
  • Members were trained by the State Association
  • A Communication Plan was developed to keep the membership informed
  • A Survey of the membership was conducted to gather information about the members, and about what they wanted to see in a new pastor
  • A detailed Search Process was designed to guide the work of the Search Team
  • Data was collected about the Church and the Community to provide information to the pastor candidate


  • Send letters to State Missions Directors, Seminaries, and selected individuals asking them to recommend a potential pastor that would fit with the needs and culture of our Church
  • Conduct resume reviews and listen to sermons
  • Narrow list to 5 and rank them in order of preference
  • Begin collecting additional information about the top candidate

Interview Phase

  • Conduct phone interview with the top candidate
  • Conduct an in-person interview with the candidate and his wife in the Pastor’s city
  • Arrange to hear a sermon in the Pastor’s church
  • Conduct background checks including references, criminal, and credit
  • Conduct financial negotiations with Pastor and include the Chairs of the Personnel and Stewardship Committees
  • Introduce the candidate to the Grove membership through a presentation after the worship services
  • Alert the Grove Membership to an impending visit
  • Candidate meets with interested groups within the Church
  • Church-wide reception
  • Preach Sermon at Grove

Call Phase

  • Congregation votes immediately following the sermon (secret ballot)
  • Pastor gives decision
  • Pastor/Church Covenant signed
  • Assist with relocation
  • Welcoming Reception

Current Status

  • The Survey of the Congregation was completed on March 31. The results are posted here.
  • Using the information gathered from the Survey, the Pastor Search Team sent a letter on April 10 to seventeen leaders and pastors within the Southern Baptist Convention asking they pray about a potential pastor for Grove. Then, if God laid someone on their heart, please refer that name or names to us and we will then contact them.
  • One week later and we are receiving word from those receiving the letter that they do have someone in mind and that the person is praying about it.