Almost every week we at Church Answers hear from search committees (or their equivalent). They are frustrated because they can’t find quality candidates for pastor or church staff positions. The process has taken much longer than they anticipated. Members of the church are getting restless and, sometimes, critical.
Likewise, we hear from pastors and church staff who are considering a move. They are often frustrated because of the lack of responsiveness of search committees. We heard from one pastor who was initially contacted by a search committee. The initial Zoom interview went well, and the committee indicated they wanted to take the next step with him.
But he never heard from the search committee . . . until two years later. They told him that he was their top candidate. But he had accepted the call to another church six months earlier.
“The Way We’ve Always Done It” Is Not Working
Many search committees use a process that became ineffective about a decade ago. They collect resumes from a wide range of recommendations, from ads, and if they are affiliated, from their denomination. They are usually able to get a large stack of applications and resumes.
Because search committees mostly include laypersons with busy schedules, they only meet once a week. The process becomes laborious–and often painful.
I will not take time to repeat here the specific flaws of this process. For now, I will note two major flaws. First, there is often no attempt to match ministry and cultural philosophies between the church and the candidate. Even if the candidate is doctrinally aligned with the church, that does not mean that he or she is a good fit for the church.
Second, search committees take many unnecessary steps that prolong the process. Many who serve on a pastor or church staff search committee are doing so for the first time. The only way they know to proceed is the way search committees have done it in the past.
What Is Working
I am an advocate of hiring a good search firm to find a few candidates to present to the search committee. Search firms have gone through this process countless times. They know what they are doing. They have proven methods to match churches with candidates.
The most common objections I hear to retaining search firms are twofold. First, the church does not want to pay the reasonable cost of the firm. I can assure you that calling the wrong person to the church is a lot more expensive and painful than retaining a search firm.
Second, some churches object because they think that hiring a search firm removes God from the process. Just like the Holy Spirit can work through a search committee, the Holy Spirit can also work through a search firm. And the search firm provides multiple candidates for the committee to prayerfully consider .
Another key way to find qualified candidates requires the church to present information that clearly depicts the identity of the church. That identity, of course, includes doctrine and denominational affiliation, if any. But it should also speak about the community in which the church is located, specific cultural issues of the church, and philosophies of ministry.
A Good Example
Deek Dubberly is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church of Rincon, Georgia, a suburb of Savannah. His church is seeking to call a next generation pastor. Deek and the church produced a great video for prospective candidates to consider.
I am grateful Deek is part of the Church Answers community and shared the video with the nearly 2,000 members in the community. Note how he talks about the community of Rincon and Savannah. Note how clearly he articulates the philosophy of ministry for the candidates. The church wants a team player and not a next gen pastor to develop a siloed ministry.
I won’t give away the full content of the video. With permission from Deek, I am sharing it with you.
Enjoy it. You will be blessed.
Posted on April 3, 2023
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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