Thursday, October 9, 2014

What Pastors Wish Search Committees Knew

Let's be honest, the pastor search process is one of the most difficult and draining aspects of church life for both the pastor, the committee, and the church. Admittedly I have never been asked to serve on a search committee and, fortunately, I have not been a member of a church where the pastor was absent. With that said, however, I have extensive experience, both directly and indirectly, with search committees and have served as an outside guide to several of them.

At his blog, Dr. Thom Rainer offer Five Pleas from Pastors to Search Committees (followed later by a post called Five Pleas to Pastors from Pastor Search Committees). Here are those 5 "pleas:"
  1. “Consider carefully how you first contact me.” It can be highly disruptive to my present ministry if you just show up at my church. And remember that if you send an email to me at my church, others may read it.
  2. “Please stay in touch with me.” I can feel like I am in limbo if I don’t hear anything from you for a long time. I would rather be told that you are moving in another direction than not to hear anything.
  3. “If I am called to your church, please let the congregation know the issues you and I agreed upon.” For example, if you are letting me hire my own staff rather than it going through a personnel committee, please let the church know this change is taking place before you present me.
  4. “Clarify both the strengths and the challenges of the church before I come.” Do your best so I will not be surprised by the major struggles and challenges. I can deal with them better if I know about them in advance.
  5. “Understand that if I come to the church, my entire family will be a part of the transition.” So please talk to my spouse about the issues, challenges, and opportunities. Include the entire family, not just me.
Once again, Dr. Rainer hits the proverbial nail on the head. But I would like to extend and add a number of other points.

1. Be Prepared and Have a Plan - Unfortunately, many committees just wing it. Each member will crawl through a seemingly endless pile of resumes selecting a handful of their favorites. Then they will begin sending out questionnaires, calling references, or interviewing the candidates(s). Throughout this entire process the committee lacks leadership, vision, and a plan. It has been my experience with committees personally and through testimonies from other pastors that committees will meet with potential candidates without being prepared. The questions they ask are simple and after an hour or more long interview, nothing of substance is asked. I did an interview once where I had twice as many questions for the church as they had for me.

2. Know What Your Looking For in a Pastor  - Unfortunately, many churches and members have no functional understanding of what a pastor is. Outside of preaching on Sundays and Wednesdays, many are woefully unaware of the calling, responsibilities, and authority of the pastor.

3.Throw Away Surveys - Surveying a congregation on what they want in a pastor sounds like a great idea on a surface, but a pastor's agenda should not be set by the congregation but by God. Throw away such surveys and get on your knees. Read what the Bible has to say a pastor is and then seek him out with God's guidance.

4. Keep the Candidate Updated - There is no reason why any and all potential candidates once the church narrows down their list to a certain number should not be updated weekly. Even if there is nothing to report, it is extremely helpful to all involved to be updated regularly.

5. Hurry Up! - It should not take months in order to draw up a plan, survey resumes, narrow down candidates, interview a short list, choose a single candidate and pursue them. Some churches, mostly because they have become content with their interim pastor or are simply incompetent, unnecessarily drag the process along sometimes taking over a year. No candidate can practically wait this long. No one would tolerate a potential employer taking six months or more to be considered for a position nor should a potential pastor.

6. Submit to Your New Pastors Leadership - Members are commanded, by God, to submit to their pastor. The search process creates the strange phenomenon of exercising authority over a number of candidates. Each candidate must go through some sort of process determined by the committee. However, it is important for each member of the committee and the church once a pastor has been hired to become a submissive member working with their new pastor to glorify God and to grow his kingdom.
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