The Right Way to Seek Pastors and Church Staff for Your Church

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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  • Henry Van Weeren says on

    I came across a leadership training video done at our church recently. The Discipleship Pastor mentioned that our church (which my wife and I have been attending about 4 years now) has been flatlined in attendance for the past 17 years. He specifically mentioned there has been a regular flow of people in the front door, and out the back door. I was mortified for a number of reasons:
    1. This situation occurred on the watch of our current lead pastor. He is retiring in a couple of months and we are putting together a pastoral search committee “the same as we’ve always done it.” No one’s feet has been held to the fire for responsibility or change. It takes more than just replacing a figurehead.
    2. I personally spoke to the Discipleship Pastor to confirm the statistics and to ask if our church did an exit interview–which they do not. There is no data or anecdotal reasons why our church hasn’t grown, and is certainly not maturing many disciples because they don’t stay long enough! (can I hear the tune, “Begging For Volunteers”?)
    3. An elderly friend at the church confirmed the “no exit interview” policy. A policy that he has been advocating for years, but which no one wants to follow through. His wife was on our church’s recent 50th anniversary celebration committee. She found many former members of the church didn’t want anything to do with their celebrations due to past incidents.

    Hiring an outside firm for a pastoral search would be VERY wise considering past experience.

  • Kyle Warren says on

    Would like contact information on the Search Firms you mentioned in the read.

  • Rev Dana Schindler says on

    As a pastor, I find many churches paint a false picture of who they are and what they want. In my first call, I was exactly what they said they wanted, but I wasn’t. I advised them when I left, to be honest so they could get the best match possible. I’ve had multiple search committees who showed strong interest in the first interview but never made a second contact.

  • Joe De Leon says on

    Hi Thom,
    Very timely article, in my years of experience I have seen too many sad results of churches both large and small as well as para church organizations calling the wrong person to lead the ministry. The lack of experience on the part of the calling group as well as poor understanding of the expectations on the part of the called.
    All are good people but in the wrong place and time.
    Again, thank you for your ministry. Keep up the good work.

  • Rex Simcox says on

    This is a timely article. Why are we not seeking out and mentoring younger believers personally? Isn’t that what we are commanded to do? Much of the reason younger people are not involved in ministry is for the same reason they are not involved in church – no one has asked them. given the demographics that show a rising interest among Gen Z and Millennials both regarding spiritual issues the field is ripe for harvest!

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Thanks for the comment, Rex. I see this issue as an evangelism problem rather than a mentoring problem. We don’t have enough Christians in the other generations to mentor.

    • Horror stories about congregational ministry are why many younger people don’t want to go into it. Also, telling younger people to sit tight and wait their turn drives them right out.

  • Don L McCutcheon says on

    This is a very interesting article, my friend. I recently spoke to a Southern Baptist Director of Missions/Missions Strategist about this situation. He informed me of the surprising fact he and his colleagues have discovered. It seems there is an alarming scarcity of qualified prospective senior pastors. I feel certain you may have also noted the exodus of pastors from the local church during the pandemic. If this is pervasive, we need urgently begin praying to the Lord of the harvest for laborers.
    Thank you for all you and Sam do to encourage us!

    • Thom Rainer says on

      You are so right, Don. While the pandemic has accelerated retirement and other forms of an exodus from the church, it is not the causative factor. The real culprit is demographics. We have tens of thousands of boomer pastors and staff retiring without younger replacements available to replace them.

  • Hey, Deek Dubberly here with FBC Rincon, GA. If anyone is interested in applying for our Next Gen Pastor position, please send your resumé to [email protected]. It’s a full-time, salaried position as a member of our pastoral staff. Your primary responsibilities would be to middle school, high school, and college students. There will be preaching opportunities during our Sunday gatherings as well. We are a growing church in a growing community. We had 30 people attend our monthly Next Steps class yesterday, with many indicating their desire to join the church and several agreeing to follow the Lord in believer’s baptism.