I was recently meeting with a church’s elder board where they asked me how many Senior Pastor searches our team here at Vanderbloemen has been a part of. The answer was hundreds – more if you count the Lead Pastor searches that our team members were involved in during their tenures on church staffs around nation before they joined our team. I then posed the same question to them, “How many times have you been involved in a search process for a Pastor?” to which they replied, “Well… zero.”
We’ve had the opportunity to help hundreds of churches find their new Pastors and key staff. While we’re certainly not perfect, we do have quite a few reps under our belts as it relates to finding key leaders in a church.
If you are currently beginning to look for a new Pastor, I hope this can be a guide to get you started on your search.
1. Form a search committee.
Your first step should be to form some sort of Pastor search committee or search team. This will look different for each church, depending on your DNA and polity, but here are a few things to consider:
- Make sure there is a good representation of your church in your search committee. This includes age, gender, background, and ethnicity.
- Keep your search committee under 10 people, if possible. The more members you have in your search team, the slower the process will move and it may be difficult to come to a consensus when making decisions.
- Leave the “church curmudgeon” off of this committee. You may think that giving him/her a voice will keep them from complaining, but it will only bring a negative voice to your process.
- Begin praying intentionally and regularly for your search team, church, church staff, and new pastor and family.
2. Create a communication plan.
Before you begin moving forward with the search, be sure to create and implement a communication plan for the church. This plan would ideally have two components: Live updates to the congregation and an online resource like a website page that you will update regularly.
Live updates could happen at your one of your regular worship gatherings, and should happen around once a month. Your goal is to keep the congregation informed while not overwhelming visitors with “church business.” Be sure to elect one member of your search committee to present, and keep the updates under 5 minutes. It’s not necessarily prudent to give them all of the nitty gritty details each time.
Online updates could be as simple as a webpage on your church’s website dedicated to this search. Every two weeks or so, provide an update on the process. This will be a great place for less active members or the job seekers to be updated. Again, assign one member on your team to oversee this, and create an email address for your Pastor search committee that the church has access to. This way any questions about the Pastor search can be directed to this email address and streamlined.
3. Create a job profile.
The job profile is a large piece to this puzzle and an important one. There are several things to consider here, but I want to start this section with a warning: God’s ways are higher than our ways, and his thoughts higher than ours. Your Pastor job description should reflect and define the characteristics and qualities desired in your new Pastor, but do not hold to these requirements so tightly that you miss how the Holy Spirit may be working with a candidate that doesn’t check every box.
We’ve created some super helpful resources on job descriptions that church leaders can use during this process.
Ultimately, the two main points that should always be considered in a good job profile is attracting for the position and attracting for your church. Remember, the profile is not just a list of checkboxes, but a tool used to recruit great candidates to your church staff.
4. Begin networking for candidates.
Now that you have a clear picture of the type of Pastor you’re seeking, your search team can begin getting the word out. Using your networks and personal contacts is the best place to begin searching. Here are a few networking ideas to get you started:
- Denominations or affiliations your church is connected to
- Churches in your area and surrounding towns
- Guest preachers and pastors that you’ve hosted in the past few years
- Family members outside of your church or at other thriving churches around the country
- Online job board sites
Something to consider as you work through the resumes that come in: although the internet has created a great way to connect people, it has also never been easier for a candidate to look better on paper than right now. Our goal is always to get the story behind the resume and understand who that person really is and what kind of Pastor they really are. A resume isn’t the whole story, so be sure to do the research and not make decisions based on a piece of paper.
6. Screen resumes.
Your next step is to begin working through and evaluating these candidates’ resumes. As you begin looking through each resume, keep an eye out for alignment in theology, experience, geography, and church size. The job profile you created will be a good guide, but again, don’t rule someone out that’s not a 100% match.
As you evaluate resumes, decide who is clearly not a fit for the church or role, and who you’d like to explore experience and sermon samples further. Decide who you would like to interview after your deeper dive into their background.
7. Begin interviewing.
Every church conducts interview differently, but we detail an entire suggested Pastor interview process (along with templates and questions to ask) in our new book, Search: The Pastoral Search Committee Handbook.
While every Pastor search is unique, we hope this will be a good compass as you begin this important and holy endeavor.
How can you begin preparing for your Pastor search?
By: Sarah Robins, Vanderbloemen Search Group