At some point, every local church will have to search for a new pastor. Having been in a Christian church my whole life, I’ve see this happen more than a few times. And as a Christian pastor, I’ve been part of the process. Sometimes the process goes well, sometimes it doesn’t go so well, and sometimes it is just quite sloppy. Although some churches have basic guidelines for calling a new pastor, many churches don’t have guidelines, so they sort of wing it. And winging it usually makes the process very difficult and sometimes painful.
Here’s a book that will help churches (and their elders, sessions, or consistories) search for a new pastor: When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search by Chris Brauns. This book gives a lot of helpful details – biblical and practical – to think about when searching for a new pastor. I do disagree with some areas of the book, since it is written from an independent baptistic point of view, but generally speaking, there is a lot of wisdom in it. One part worth mentioning here is Brauns’ list of common mistakes churches make when searching for a pastor:
1) Not choosing the right people for the pastoral search. The right people to choose are those who will think biblically about the candidate and calling process.
2) Prayerlessness. Be sure you do not just talk about praying. What your local church really needs to do is organize prayer and actually put it into practice.
3) Being people-centered rather than Word-centered. Churches should search for a candidate who meets the biblical requirements rather than one who meets some personal pet priorities.
4) Lack of follow through and due diligence by the pastoral search committee. No matter how busy and overwhelmed the committee may already be, the reality is they will not be successful in a pastoral search apart from a lot of really hard work.
5) Impatience that leads to the wrong decision.
6) Failure to properly administrate the pastoral search. The committee needs to keep track of resumes, correspondence, sermons, etc. The committee will need to hold one another accountable for completing assignments in the search.
7) Inadequate communication. Leaders must communicate often with the congregation during the pastoral search [and, if I can add, communicate clearly with the man or men on the candidate list].
8) Failure to adequately budget for the pastoral search. Recognize going in that there are significant costs for looking for a new pastor. But it is worth spending the money.
9) Allowing the experience with the previous pastor to direct the calling of the next pastor. Many if not most churches tend to hire out of a reaction to the previous pastor. Whether it was a negative or positive, your experience with the previous pastor should not become the defining force for calling your next pastor.
10) Spending too much time trying to call pastors who are not ‘reasonably gettable.’ Look for someone who is a good fit in your church and community.
This is a helpful list to consider when calling a pastor! Note: I did edit the list a bit by adding some commentary from other chapters of this helpful book, When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search.
If you are a member of a church looking for a new pastor, or part of the committee looking for a new pastor, you’ll want to read this book for helpful advice!