Church Related Studies
Pastor Search Committee Tips
by Dr. Joseph "Mike" Willmouth
|This Biblical article was written and submitted in January 2003 by: Joseph M. Willmouth, Pastor of Trinity Bible Church in Biloxi, Mississippi 39532. This contributed article is copyright protected, and the sole property of the contributing author. It may be freely copied and used provided the above credits are included. Document expiration: indefinite.|
This list of tips was originally put together to help a friend of mine's church to get a good start in looking for a new pastor. The information that is given here is based upon my own experience as someone who has served on a pastor search committee and as a pastor who has been interviewed by pastor search committees. As a result of being on both sides of the process it has given me a better perspective of how things should be conducted so as to be as painless process for both sides. An important fact that the pastor search committee needs to be mindful of is that the prospective pastor isn't the only person being interviewed, but their church is also being interviewed by the prospective pastor as to whether-or-not he wishes to go there. I have gone through some interviews where I was down right thankful that the interviewing church decided to look elsewhere because of their coldness and their efforts to intimidate me during interview. The key to this whole process is to have everyone in constant prayer, seeking the Lord's direction and will. Treat each prospective pastor with courtesy and respect, just as you would like to be treated -- that's all the prospective pastor really wants in the whole process too. I would also recommend that you talk to other people who have gone through this process before, and learn from the things they did right and the things that they did wrong. The better you are prepared before beginning the interview process, the smother everything will go. Remember the goal of every committee and prospective pastor is to have the right pastor in the right church. May God bless you in your search for the right pastor -- Mike Willmouth
Step 1: Form a pastor search committee.
1. If your church is run by an elder board, then skip this step.
2. Selection of pastor search committee members.
A. Announce prior to the business meeting, that nominations will be taken for the purpose of electing a pastor search committee.Step 2: Get a general idea of what type of pastor the church is looking for.
3. Preaching Style.
4. Personality of church compared to that of the Pastor.
5. Church goals and desires.
6. Areas of concern by the church (these normally come up from past experiences with former pastors).
7. Make sure that the pastor is doctrinally alined with the church (this is the one area that churches normally never think about, and it the most important area).
NOTE: Remember to keep things realistic,
there was only one Messiah and no one else can live up to the standards
that He set.
Step 3: Set ground rules for the pastor search members.
1. Address the issue of confidentiality among the committee members.
2. Address the issue of the amount of agreement among members for bringing a pastoral candidate before the church for a vote.
3. Gather information that is needed by potential pastors.
A. Local information about the area.4. Keep the committee working and moving forward - if you don't it will get hard to get them going again.
Step 4: Collect Resumes
1. From the Association or Convention.
2. Bible Schools, colleges, seminaries, etc.
3. From church members, friends, family, etc.
- Announce to the church that you are taking resumes and give them a cut-off date of somewhere between 2 weeks to a month.4. Advertise in Christian Papers (like an associational or convention paper) if need be.
5. Advertise on Christian Job web sites.
Step 5: Sort & Rank Resumes
1. Make enough copies of the resumes to give to every committee member.
2. Send them home for a week to sort through the resumes and pick their top ten candidates based on qualities the church is looking for.
3. At the next meeting compare everyone's candidates and start the process of coming up with a master list of ten resumes.
A. This means you'll have discussions from everyone on why they think certain people need to be on the list or why they don't think someone should be on the list.
1. The next step depends on how you want to handle it.
A. You can either contact every pastor on that list and tell them that your committee is beginning its search for a pastor and you are just inquiring to see if they would be interested or not (this can save some time, but it can also send wrong signals to candidates).2. Once your list is complete make sure that you work with one candidate at a time, this way you are focused upon them and it doesn't become a popularity contest.- Once this is done remove those who are not interested and start with the highest ranked candidate (for example: if your number one choice said no, then you begin to focus on number two next)B. Or you can start by just focusing on the number one candidate.- Ask him if he is interested, if not move on to your next candidate.
- With this in mind, NEVER bring a candidate into your church to preach until you are sure that he is the one you want to present to the church - if you do, it can create problems with church members as they begin to get involved before they should (I've seen this happen).3. Once you get a candidate that is interested, then it is time to talk with him.
A. This interview can be done at the church or somewhere that is more convenient for the candidate.Warning: Do not do it unannounced, or you may end up with someone withdrawing themselves from your list. This isn't because they want to fool you by giving you their only good sermon, but your visit can create problems within his church when 5 to 7 people show up for no reason. This is an instant warning signal to the church body that says, "a pastor search committee is here to steal our pastor" and can have a negative impact upon his ministry at that church if people begin to think that he's leaving. Ask to see if it is ok to come to hear him. He may prefer to preach at a different church so as not to create possible unneeded concern within his congregation. Also if you show up unannounced, you may not even get to hear the pastor - he may not be speaking that Sunday. If you must go and visit his church then it would be best to send only a couple of committee member over several weeks so as not to create problems.1) An example is, if you are interviewing someone who lives a few hours away see about meeting them around half-way for a lunch.B. To save time it is best to give potential pastors important facts up front to see if they are interested in even being considered. Here are some examples:
D. Contact his references.NOTE: Remember the interview process is not only to find out if the candidate is not only qualified to be a pastor, but how you think that he will fit in with your church's personality, goals, and desires. This is not a Employer interviewing a paid Employee - the pastor-church relationship is more like a husband and wife relationship.1) Remember that when talking with references you will probably get an either a "love" or a "hate" response (or both) about him, so just try to see if there was really something that needs to be addressed further with the candidate before interview him.E. The Interview (you can do this step before hearing the sermon if you like)
Step 7: Presenting the candidate to the church.
1. Once the committee has listened to sermons, asked questions, prayed about, and everyone believes that this is the man that God is calling, then it is time to present him to the church body.
2. The best method.
A. Have the pastor (and his family, if possible) come up for the weekend and put them up in a nice hotel (or a home if possible, but this may be a little uncomfortable - it just depends on the person or family).Important Miscellaneous Information.
1. Get a interim pastor. This will relieve some of the pressure on the committee and church.
2. Keep your Church informed on a regular basis (you don't have to get into details, but give them general comments about how things are progressing). This will prevent a "us" against "them" attitude from beginning.
3. Keep all candidates informed - this means everyone that you have contacted. If you have made contact with others then write them a letter and tell them that you are no longer looking at them and why (i.e., you have called a pastor. or God has moved your church to look in a different direction). Don't leave people hanging by asking if they are interested and never telling them anything else again - most pastors understand this process and will not be offended if you decide to look elsewhere. Plus don't burn your bridges, because you might feel led to go back to someone that you dismissed earlier.
3. Any time this whole process stops, for example the candidate or
church says no, or the church feels like they need to look elsewhere
then move to the next person on you list and follow all the steps again.
Don't lose heart if things don't seem to be going so well, this whole
process could takes a few months to over year. Remember your number
one choice may not be God's number one choice, so it may take some time
before you get to God's choice.