There are several ways a church search committee process can go when it comes to choosing a pastor. The right approach coupled with heeding God’s guidance can lead to selecting the right spiritual leader for both the church and its congregation. Below is a discussion of how your committee might go about it, and it can be tweaked to fit your specific scenario. We hope these tips for a pastor search committee process clear up any confusion!
How To Find A Pastor? Start with Spiritual Discernment
Before anything, a theological foundation must be laid for a transition process. Spiritual Discernment is the classic Christian practice of seeking God’s agenda above our own. Learning to pray the prayer of “Holy Indifference” lays a strong foundation for all that will come later. Not only must the search team engage in praying for God’s will to be done rather than ours, but so must the congregation. Thoughtful spiritual preparation needs to come before any conversation about hopes, dreams and expectations.
The committee needs input from the congregation in order to help with the search for a new pastor. In order to engage the congregation, a series of conversations about the church’s history, current context, and hopes for the future is invaluable. Rather than utilize dated survey methodology, we urge congregations to talk about these matters in small groups at congregational gatherings. The search team guides those conversations toward asking what the group senses God NEEDS from their church and its pastor, rather than simply surveying for what the members WANT. That distinction is critical to a healthy search.
Create Profiles for the Church and Pastor
The responses from the conversations will play a huge role in creating the church’s profile. This is a description of how the church as a whole sees itself. The profile will be shared with prospective candidates to help them better understand the church they will be working for. Furthermore, it will help in developing a profile of the right candidate who can effectively lead the church.
Develop Realistic Expectations
Now that the committee has a profile of the church and pastor, they can create a scorecard while referencing these two documents. This scorecard will include a short list of “must have” qualifications and expectations for potential candidates. Rather than create a job description, focusing on needed leadership traits, spiritual gifts and emotional intelligence attributes tends to produce a more reasonable set of expectations than a traditional list of tasks.
Don’t Advertise, Recruit!
The profiles should be shared with the congregation as the team begins their active search. Members can be encouraged to suggest names of high-potential candidates who meet the specific expectations spelled out in the Pastor Profile. Encourage them to send the information to individuals they think will be great candidates. Rather than advertise, the committee should plan to connect with those who network well with candidates and ask “who is doing excellent work?” as they seek out potential candidates. In most free-call systems, the stronger candidates come from relational connections rather than traditional advertising.
The committee will need to persuade and encourage potential candidates to have a conversation with them. Using their Profiles as the standard against which all candidates will be measured, they then begin the pragmatic part of Spiritual Discernment. Working with a shorter and shorter list of candidates, the goal is to mutually arrive at a point of agreement about which candidate(s) most nearly fits the profile the congregation and committee has created. This is more of a recruiting model than managing applications for the position. Bearing that in mind is essential throughout the process. All discussions of candidates should be based on who is right for the church and congregation based on the profiles developed earlier. Personal preferences give way to congregational priorities in a healthy and spiritually grounded approach.
The committee should verify the background of each shortlisted individual, including their education, experience, and criminal record. Most certainly , the committee should check the candidate’s references. The opinions of people the prospective hire has worked with or worked for will help determine if the candidate is not only good on paper.
Interview Shortlisted Candidates
All candidates should be treated equally as the list grows shorter. Interviews should either all be virtual or in person as the list gets to ten or fewer candidates. Interview questions should allow the committee to ascertain the candidate’s ministerial, theological and moral views, as well as how well they’ll fit in with the church’s culture. Special attention must be given to discerning the candidate’s Emotional Intelligence. Multiple resources are available to guide the committee in constructing questions that address EQ traits. Eventually, if the candidate is currently employed at a church elsewhere, the committee can make a trip to go see the prospect in action.
Discerning the Final Candidate
The committee should factor in everything they have gathered during the interview process and further look into the candidates. After the evaluation and time of spiritual discernment, the committee will hopefully reach a consensus on the single ideal candidate according to the pastor profile.
Arrange for the Candidate to Meet the Congregation
Believing that the final candidate will be a good fit for the congregation, the committee then invites them to come for an introductory weekend to meet the church’s congregants, along with various community members. It is an opportunity for them to know the pastor by holding discussions and question-and-answer sessions. The potential pastor should also do some ministerial activities, including preaching and leading bible study sessions during their visit.
Take a Final Vote
In most congregations, the call is extended at the close of the introductory weekend. The committee will need to reference the church’s constitution to guide the voting process. Once the call is extended and accepted, the committee moves into the phase of planning for a transition and arrival for the minister and their family. All other candidates should also be notified that the committee has made the call and the candidate has accepted.
Let Us Help You Find Your Next Pastor
The right pastor can foster spiritual growth and vitality for the congregation. A healthy call process requires a thoughtful blend of Spiritual Discernment and effective human resource tools and technology. If you would like to know more about CHC’s unique approach to navigating the various aspects of the pastor search committee process, please give us a call today at (336) 970-3578 or fill out our contact form.