Too many times, I need my wife to next-day my computer power supply to me because I forgot to take it with me when I travel. Because of this, I’ve learned that when I travel, I need to run through a mental checklist before leaving the house.
Unfortunately, unlike my situation – where I travel frequently and can have my wife ship my forgotten belongings to me – pastor search committees don’t have the same luxury. Forgetting a key step in calling a pastor has more serious consequences than forgetting your computer supply, and search committees are given fewer tries to get it right.
Below is the beginning of a checklist that churches looking for pastors should review before starting their pastor search. I stress that it’s only the beginning of a list. You could probably add to it!
1. Does our church have a prayer plan for the pastoral search? Consider this excerpt from When the Word Leads your Pastoral Search:
The necessity of prayer during recruitment is seen in the example of our King. These verses from Luke are extremely relevant for a church looking for a pastor.
In these days [Jesus] went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles…(Luke 6:12-15).
Here was Jesus, chairman of the only perfect search committee of One. He had perfect wisdom and discernment. He was the greatest recruiter in the history of humanity. Yet, before he met with candidates for spots on his team, he spent the night in prayer.
Prayer is essential at every stage of your pastoral search from choosing a pastoral search committee to praying for your next pastor. Be sure you do more than just talk about praying.
2. Do we have a written job description for our pastor? A pastor job description should include:
- Accountability relationships
- Areas of responsibility
3. Have we agreed about how we will evaluate sermons of pastoral candidates? This is an area I write about extensively in When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search.
4. Is the decision-making model clearly defined and owned by your church leaders? Or is it possible that one group of people will do a tremendous amount of work, only to be frustrated by an unexpected roadblock from another group?
5. Does our church need to bring in outside help for conflict resolution before calling a pastor? See this video for more on this point.
6. Are we committed to thoroughly doing reference checks on pastoral candidates in a timely way? Or will we wait until the decision is basically already made and reference checks are just something to cross off our lists?
7. Have we reminded ourselves of the cost of calling a pastor that does not go well? Of course, there is no quantifying the spiritual cost of not calling the right pastor. But financially the cost might easily be something like 2 times the pastor’s annual salary and benefits plus a loss of 15% of the annual budget for 2 years. Hence, the financial cost could very quickly be hundreds of thousands of dollars.
8. Does the investment we are making in the pastoral search reflect what is at stake? Have we amply budgeted so that the pastoral search committee / elders / whatever group is leading this decision can do their job?
9. Have we as a congregation reviewed the biblical teaching about pastoral ministry? Has any teaching been done from our pulpit to prepare our congregation?
10. Are we consciously avoiding the “pendulum effect”? Or, are we in danger of calling our next pastor in reaction to the previous pastor?
11. Have we put together a quality profile of our community that will give candidates an idea of the history of the church and the nature of the community?
12. Have we connected with the appropriate denominational or district leaders?
13. Have we identified like minded churches where the leaders might give us helpful counsel and possibly even suggest candidates?
Again, this is only the beginning of a checklist. What else should be added? Which of these points would you like to see more on?