It’s recruitment time again. At our April retreat, two members announced that they would be leaving over the summer.

While some community members stay for a long time, our median stay is only two years. There have been very few years in our 25 year history when at least one person has not moved out. For a while, we stopped talking university students because they move on after their 2-3 year program ends, but the families we took instead did not stay longer.

We were not sure which process to adopt this year. We have tried taking batches of applicants, and winnowing them for the most suitable, but then you have to say No to some people, which some of us find difficult. One year we took all candidates to avoid rejecting anyone! Then we tried taking them one at a time, in the order in which they applied, until we found someone suitable, so we had to say No to fewer people.

Jacque, Jeremy and son Cal had visited the community several times as friends of Sadie and Dustin, and they came to our recent Easter dinner. They were the first ones to come to dinner after expressing their interest in joining us, so we started with them.

Where’s Lisa?

Not that we had a shortage of candidates, most of whom find us through our website or through the Fellowship of Intentional Communities online directory. Two were beginning graduates programs at the nearby University of Chicago in the Fall; a third person was prepared to move just for community. A couple of other people expressed interest or asked questions but did not submit applications; and another two applications came in just after we made our decision.

The first step in our process is to come to dinner so we can get a feel for each other. After the meal, we showed Jeremy and Jacque the rooms (Cal was more interested in the toys in the back yard) , asked and answered questions, and set up an interview time. We interviewed each of the adults separately, for about an hour, working from a list of standard questions supplemented by questions that arose from reading their applications and talking with them.

After we spoke with the references that Jacque and Jeremy provided came the hard part – finding consensus. We worked through a list of qualities that we are looking for in members, and through our core values. How did they match? What benefit did we think they would receive from living with us? What could they offer us? Just when we thought we had consensus, a new issue came up, so we put off the decision while we considered ways to meet the needs of both parties. In the end, the solution was a proposal that seemed unlikely when it was first proposed; we juggled rooms and people about so that the new family ended up with two adjacent rooms.

The last detail to work out was the turnover date. Jacque and Jeremy gave us their preferred date (the weekend prior to their lease expiration) but Joe was unable to schedule his move out date for earlier, so he will move out on the morning of the move-in. This is how we usually do it; even though our membership commitment finishes June 30 each year, we try to match move-out dates to move-in dates as best we can, though sometimes the outgoing person moves out sooner and those remaining have to pick up the additional rent for a month or two.