3 Reasons Your Pastor Search Is Taking Too Long



Searching for a new Senior Pastor can – and should – be a weighty decision that takes time and prayer. It involves looking to the Lord for direction and waiting on His timing. However, we also see in the Bible that God doesn’t always move slowly. Do you feel like your Pastor search is taking too much time?

When a search for a church staff member is moving slowly, it usually boils down to at least one of these three reasons:

1. Trying to hit a moving target

The most difficult searches we are asked to do are not for the largest churches, the most location-challenged, or those with an aggressive job description. A lack of clarity regarding vision and identity at the executive level provides the greatest challenges when looking to fill a ministry role on staff. When a church or organization lacks a clear picture of who they are and where they are headed, it is very difficult to decide who they need on the bus to help them get there. 

This often leads to a misalignment in the desired characteristics, experience requirements, goals, and responsibilities when launching the search for a new role. When you begin to play this movie forward you will find candidates who are interested in the position. They will ask clarifying questions about expectations for the position, and when leadership is not aligned, it can lead to frustration on their part and the candidates.

This is one key reason that a few years ago we implemented a blind résumé review as part of our search process. At the midpoint of all of the searches we present a blind résumé to our clients to receive their initial feedback. A blind résumé is one with all of the personal and identifying information removed. When our clients have a chance to review a blind résumé, it allows us to understand if we hitting the target of candidates in our search or if the target has shifted 10 degrees. It allows time for feedback on what they see as valuable and what they view as challenges to overcome in a candidate’s experience.

If there is not clarity regarding identity and vision it will be extremely hard to find a candidate who will be willing to step into an uncertain situation. Spend the necessary time to discern who your organization is, as well as what your vision and unique calling is. Do your absolute best to get the right people on your team to fulfill your unique mission.The time spent will pay dividends in the end.

2. Unrealistic expectations 

When you are ready to begin interviewing potential hires, make sure to realize that they are real people with real lives. It is important to avoid putting unrealistic response expectations on them. Candidates who are exploring and in transition are affected by the same things in their lives as we all are. They have family responsibilities that sometimes take precedent over responding to a call or email. Recognize that they may be in a full-time role that limits their ability to respond or get off work to interview in person. Some seasons of the year are busier than others for travel. Summers and holidays can be especially difficult to land time with people so adjust your schedule and expected timeline accordingly to allow for these potential delays.

Finally, confidentiality is important to remember as you engage any potential new hire. Many people may not be ready to let their current employer know they are exploring new opportunities so it is important to respect this boundary until the appropriate time.

Search: The Pastor Search Committee Handbook

3. Lack of recruitment

It’s been said that you would never get married before you had a first date. While this is true in relationships, it is also true in the hiring world. Not only is it important to make a good first impression, it is imperative in this day and age to remember to put your recruiting hat on as you engage with potential hires. In our experience here at Vanderbloemen Search Group, we know that the top 10% - the best people in their field - are almost always weighing multiple options.

Your recruiting hat must be on at every stage of the hiring process.Tweet: Your recruiting hat must be on at every stage of the hiring process. http://ctt.ec/mKd9I+ via @VanderbloemenSG

Be a student of your candidate. Make it a point to learn what is important to them and help overcome any obstacles they may be feeling. Do they have housing or moving concerns? Offer to set up a time for them to meet with a local realtor and drive around the area on a visit. Is education a concern? Send them some local private and public school options to review and send recommendations of people in your church whose children may attend there.

In our time working with hundreds of clients and candidates, we have learned that the top candidates want to hear the vision of your church or organization from you. (see point #1). We do our best here at Vanderbloemen to represent our clients’ organizations well, yet when a candidate has the opportunity to hear the vision from the client and process that with them personally it goes much further. They are much more likely to catch the passion when they see it in action in the people of the church.  

One final word on recruitment: It is of the utmost importance to keep high capacity candidates engaged at every stage of the process. Whether you are staff-led, board-led, elder or committee-led, this one item must not be ignored. Engagement and speed win. However, don’t mistake my words to mean speed without discernment.  Smart staff and smart boards will make sure to keep their high capacity candidates engaged all throughout the process of interviewing. We have seen what can start out as excitement and optimism for a candidate wane into boredom and lack of enthusiasm when the hiring organization does not maintain a healthy pace in their process. When weeks go by and the candidate has not received an update or after a key interview, the candidate does not have clarity around the next steps this can lead to confusion.

In order to avoid this pitfall, before you begin your interview process be sure to outline your clear next steps so that there is clarity and unity as you move ahead. Searching for a new staff member can be an emotional journey. This will ensure that all candidates receive the same process and that no stage or person is hijacked by an emotional reaction.

What could be hindering your pastor search from being successful?

If you liked this, you'll also enjoy How To Keep Christ The Center Of Your Pastoral Search Process