I wish I had objective data on the length of time between pastors. I can say anecdotally the time is much longer than it used to be. A whole lot longer.
To be clear, I know we cannot presume on the call of God. I get that. But, all things considered, more and more churches are struggling because they are going longer periods of time without a pastor. Attendance often declines. Budget giving often declines. Morale often declines.
So why are search committees and appointment processes (I will refer to all search entities as search committees for simplicity) taking so much longer? I see six clear reasons.
- There are no longer ready-made networks to provide a steady supply of pastors for churches. Denominations and other networks could provide a list of names in the past, many of whom could fit most churches in that network. Today, churches are different more than uniform. Communities are more diverse. The “denominationally-groomed-and-ready” pastor just does not exist today.
- Search committees are often poorly equipped to find pastors. They typically do not know the right places to go and the right people to ask. They don’t have time to devote to seeking applicants and culling through resumes. Most don’t know the profile of a best qualified applicant.
- Search committees often still use old paradigms. Advertise in denominational or network publications. Wait for a flood of resumes to arrive with mostly unqualified candidates. Go to a candidate’s church to hear a sermon. Go through resumes one by one in an excruciatingly slow and painful process. Wait. Wait. Wait.
- Many search committees don’t use a search firm. I’ve heard all the reasons not to do so. Some think it costs too much. But most churches save a lot of money and time using a search firm. For example, during prolonged interim periods church giving usually declines—which can lead to financial struggles. Other churches think the search firm chooses the pastors for them. No, the search firm finds qualified candidates for the church to choose (Full disclosure: Vanderbloemen Search Group (Vanderbloemen.com) is a sponsor of Rainer on Leadership podcast. They are incredible!)
- Search committees often represent a cross section of the church rather than the most qualified members. I understand the sentiment to have every group in the church represented. Unfortunately, such representation is not often commensurate with qualification. And an unqualified search committee is most often a slow search committee.
- Some search committees and churches don’t think it is spiritual to find a new pastor too quickly. In most cases, a church should be able to get a new pastor in six months or less. God is really able to work that punctually. There is nothing inherently spiritual about taking a year or two years or more finding a new pastor. In fact, in many cases it is really bad stewardship to take that long.
Many churches are simply taking too long to find a new pastor.
As a consequence, many congregations are struggling without a leader to guide them.
Posted on April 30, 2018
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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Our church has been without a pastor for 2.75 years. The search committee is looking. It is a painfully slow process. They should have hired a search firm on Day One.
Churches struggle with finding and keeping a new pastor because most churches would rather not change anything and most new pastors want to change everything.
I read this article, since we have been without a senior pastor for seven months and in the search process for well over two years. I also read through the comments with much interest….”search firms, qualifications, compensation package, etc.” There wasn’t one comment on the congregation having a period of fasting, praying, and seeking God, no prayer retreats, no calls for repentance and renewal, nothing. For all this content, I could assume I was back in the days of my corporate career. The church is dying and it’s leaders are trying to heal the brokenness of God’s people with cisterns that will not hold water. Dear God, please send us a pastor who is actually a believer in your Word and who won’t make his decision on the basis of money, greed, or faithlessness. I’m just an old woman in the church and a lover of God’s Word. You scare me.
The 6 months or less timeline would be a good one. As a minister, being “fish hooked” by a church for a year or so I have found to be harmful to my personal moral and ministry. I imagine this is true for many.
Can you lead life way to help Churches make meaningful changes on this?
That’s right.The new Pastor should come and follow the church’s Rules and Policies that our church had been built up with since our First ever Pastor,2nd,3rd, 4th now he’s the 5th? instead of trying to change them especially in his own dominant, greedy and disrespectful way that caused most of our old members and families to leave our beloved church due to his Dictatorship way.