Help for Pastor Search Committees
Dr. Matt Sanders
Executive Pastor, Beth-El Fellowship
Churches take many different approaches to choosing a pastor – some good and some bad. Of course, the entire process should be saturated in prayer. In fact, the whole process could begin with a churchwide call to prayer.
What follows is one approach to the process. After a pastoral search committee is convened in accordance with the church’s constitution and bylaws, the committee should take the following steps.
- Survey the church membership to determine how the church views itself. (See previous entries for more) Ask questions evaluating the church’s past and present, its mission and vision, and their involvement and commitment to the church. Discuss the survey as a church to attempt to arrive at some conclusions. If need be, bring in an outside consultant to help facilitate this discussion.
- Gather demographic information about the church’s community as well as the church itself.
- Based on the survey and demographic information write a description of the church and the community. Be sure to include any long-range plans that the church has approved. A summary of this description should be developed and included in any postings of the vacancy. The full description should be sent to any applicant for the position.
- Review the church’s hiring procedures, pastor’s job description, and church budget (to determine salary range and package). Smaller churches might want to consider two figures – what they believe the new pastor should receive and what they can pay. This can be used as incentive for the church to increase giving.
- Post the church description, hiring procedures, and job description for the entire church to review. If the salary range is public, this can also be included.
- Give church members information on where to direct any interested, qualified applicants.
Post a summary of the job and church descriptions with denominational and associational outlets (e.g., convention offices, seminaries) as well as on Internet sites such as ChurchJobs.net. Be sure to include how to apply and the deadline. At minimum, applications should include a resume, personal and professional references, recordings of sermons, a statement of faith, and position statements on issues specific to the church (e.g., women in ministry, cessationism).
- Some churches might want to look through resume files kept at denominational or associational offices.
- Begin to evaluate applications as they arrive. Send letters to those who do not meet the minimum qualifications.
- Discuss all candidates who meet the minimum qualifications. The evaluation must be based on the established biblical and church criteria as well as who is a potential good match for the church according to the church description and community demographics. The chair must work to keep the discussion from becoming about the personal preferences of committee or church members.
- When the list is narrowed, criminal background checks should be made, educational degrees and work history should be verified, prior churches should be contacted, and all references should be interviewed. Findings should be discussed by the committee to see if any candidates should be removed from consideration. Removed candidates should be notified.
- Preliminary telephone interviews should be conducted with remaining candidates. If possible the interviews should be recorded and disseminated to the committee. Results of the interviews should be discussed. Removed candidates should be notified.
- Taking into consideration all collected information, the committee should determine if one or more candidate should be looked at more closely.
- If these candidates are serving in a church, committee members should observe them conducting their ministries if possible.
- The committee should interview in person remaining candidates. Questions should cover all aspects of the job and not only focus on theology or preaching.
- The committee should discuss remaining candidates again to see if one seems to be the right choice. Once a committee vote meets the criterion established in the constitution and by laws, If so, the church should have the candidate visit the church for at least a week. During the visit, the candidate should preach and teach multiple times. The church should also be given opportunity for a question-and-answer session with the pastor.
- The committee should meet with the church to discuss the candidate without the candidate present.
- If the committee believes the process should continue, it should follow the constitution and bylaws with regards to the procedure for voting for the candidate.
- If the candidate is accepted, all other remaining candidates should be notified.
This again is one approach. Be sure to check your church’s constitution and bylaws (or other governing documents) before beginning. Always keep in mind that the “best” candidate is not always the right candidate. The right candidate will be the one who can step in to the church as it is today and lead the church forward in what God making it to be.
Keywords: Pastor Search Committee Tips
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