The process of looking for a new pastor can be overwhelming. Frank S. Page, president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, addresses this task head on in his new book, Looking For A New Pastor: 10 Questions Every Church Should Ask.
Dr. Page’s book centers around three key points of the process that serve as the committee’s cornerstone: prayer, discernment, and decision, as well as the ten questions that every pastor search committee should ask before, during, and after their search:
1. What Does the Bible Say?
Scripture is a cornerstone of who we are as believers, so why not make Scripture the first place you go for wisdom on the process and decisions you make about the candidate? Seek the Lord and what His Word has to say about the individual and job description and use this as your ultimate guide, rather than your own needs, wants, and expectations.
2. What Do We Need to Know?
Dr. Page has built in several “Lists of 10” to give readers an inside look into things a pastor wishes the search committee had revealed, things churches wish their former pastor had told them, and things the candidate will not tell the committee. It is important to get to know your candidate well, especially if he has made it to the very end of the process.
3. What Should We Avoid?
This is an incredibly important question to ask when looking for a pastor. Dr. Page allows readers to learn from his own observations and mistakes, and identifies several strategies search teams have used in the past that don’t generally work, including The Horse-Race Strategy, The Know-It-All Strategy and The Failure-to-(Almost)-Launch Strategy.
4. Do We Need an Interim?
Looking for an interim pastor is an important job. They can be serving during a very sensitive time and are a vital part of the transition to your next pastor. It is important to determine whether an interim is needed and then find one that fits the culture of your church well. It is also important to give a clear job description to those you are considering (or those who are considering you), so they know what is expected of them.
5. How Do We Start?
Make these your first steps as a committee. They will set you on the right track and keep your focus and mission clear throughout the process.
- Prayer – Prayer provides focus and unity for the team, as well the ability to be proactive against spiritual warfare, which will come during this time.
- Personal Preparation – It is important that committee members spend time consistently in the Word and in prayer to prepare their hearts to interact with each other and make important decisions.
- Identify the Needs of the Church – Talk with your church members to see what they would desire in a pastor.
- Involve the Church – Encourage the congregation and let them know how to pray for the process. You can never have too many people praying.
- Logistical Matters – Take some time to figure out who on the committee is going to fill which role and also establish guidelines as to how the meetings are going to be run.
6. What Do We Need to Look For?
Look ahead to your needs rather than your wants or preferences, being careful to prioritize what Scripture has to say about the job requirements.
There are three main characteristics to look for in a pastoral candidate:
- Leader – One’s ability to preach a good sermon does not always correlate directly with their ability to lead people well. There is a level of charisma that accompanies a great leader. It’s all about how you relate to other people.
- Preacher – Find someone that can preach a good sermon. A “good” sermon is one that is theologically sound, engaging, and of the appropriate length, style, etc.
- Caring Pastor – Look for someone who is willing to go the extra mile and visit and call people, send personal notes, etc. They need to be a very genuine, personable person that seeks to connect with church members as individuals and does a good job doing so.
7. Where Do We Find Names?
- Resumes that are sent in by others or the pastor themselves
- Recommendations sent in with resume attached
- A pastor that is already in an established church that might feel a call to come to yours
- Online databases such as, MinisterSearch, Shepherd Staff and Vanderbloemen Search Group
After compiling a list of names, the committee needs to send out a letter to let them know that they have received their name and that they are being considered for the position.
8. What Do We Ask?
It is important to get to know this individual well throughout the interview process by having intentional conversations with them and reaching out to others that can speak on behalf of their beliefs, character, integrity, temperament, etc.
9. How Do We Seal the Deal?
The process of looking for a pastor is kind of like looking for a spouse. It’s somewhat like dating–the process of narrowing it down to one candidate and conducting the last few interviews is like engagement, and when a pastor is finally chosen, your church has reached the stage of marriage.
When your new pastor finally arrives, make the transition as smooth as possible for him and his family and show love and support by:
- Creating support groups and friends
- Assisting with normal everyday recommendations (doctors, grocery stores, etc.)
- Providing meals for the first few weeks
10. What Happens Next?
- Celebrate! Take a moment to celebrate all that God has done and the arrival of the pastor God has for your church in this season.
- Develop a support network for your new pastor so that constructive criticism and accountability are a part of this relationship, but unconditional love and support for him and his family should be at the forefront.
- Understand the realities of pastoring a church in the twenty-first century and offer support in light of that.
- There will likely be significant growth and change, but with it also come new opportunities and blessings for your church.
Pick up your copy of Looking For A New Pastor: 10 Questions Every Church Should Ask to be prepared whether you find yourself in the middle of this process, about to start looking or likely to enter into this process soon.