5 Hang Ups Of Pastor Search Committees


Pastor search committees have the unique opportunity to both determine and act upon the need to find a new senior leader for the church. When seeking this new leader, pastor search committees must navigate certain myths and pitfalls of hiring a new church staff member. 

Not much has changed since 1 Samuel 16. It’s so easy to fall into the same trap when looking at potential candidates that Samuel did when anointing a new king. God clearly calls us to look beyond the exterior. 1 Samuel 16:7: “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him...

If Samuel led your search committee here are some of the things he might be looking for:

1. The Cool Or “It” Factor

Myth #1: If a candidate is trendy or cool, they must have great leadership ability.

It’s the age old trap. 1 Samuel 16:6 says, “When Jesse’s sons arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, 'Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!'

If the candidate is young, attractive, or stylish, too often pastor search committees assume they have the intangibles to be an effective leader. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Obviously you want a candidate to be self-aware and polished in terms of their appearance and how they carry themselves, but to assume talent and potential based upon any external factors is a huge mistake. The next time you’re tempted to offer that worship leader the job simply because they “look the part” just re-read 1 Samuel 16.

2. Size & Scope

Myth #2: A candidate will not do well at our church unless they've worked in a similar or larger size and scope.

The fastest way to limit your potential candidate pool and delay a search process is by insisting that your next hire will have served in a church or organization as large or larger than yours. It is unwise to assume that someone doing an incredible job at a smaller setting cannot replicate that work in a larger context.

Church leadership potential transcends size and scope of experience.Tweet: Church leadership potential transcends size and scope. http://bit.ly/1NB9xcJ via @VanderbloemenSG #ChurchStaffing

There may be a brief time of adjustment, but a solid leader with a proven track record of success will make the transition and likely do well. Oddly enough, we’ve seen the opposite to be true as well. Just because a candidate comes from a large setting doesn’t mean they can be successful in other large settings. Size and scope of a candidate's previous work environment isn’t a reliable indicator of their future success. Jesse fell victim to this idea in 1 Sam 16:11: “There is still the youngest, But he’s out in the field watching the sheep and goats” (i.e. "Surely you don’t want him - he has no 'real' experience").

June is Pastor Search Committee month!  Click here to order your church's  copies of SEARCH: The Pastor Search Committee Handbook.

3. They Speak Well

Myth #3: An effective communicator is an effective leader.

If you want to hire a gifted communicator, focus on their ability to communicate.Tweet: If you plan to hire a gifted communicator, focus on their ability to communicate. http://bit.ly/1NB9xcJ via @VanderbloemenSG #ChurchStaffing

However, don’t assume that since they can communicate God’s word in a powerful way, they also have the ability to replicate leadership, develop people and systems, and take your organization to the next level. There are many amazing candidates that can do both, but there are even more that have the ability to do one or the other task very well. There is no perfect candidate.

4. The Internal Hire

Myth #4: Internal hires are the best option.

I am a fan of the internal hire under two firm conditions: the candidate has been trained or mentored in the role, and he or she has the capacity and desire to be a success. But too often we see churches give a pass on one or more of these areas based upon a person's tenure within the church or simply due to the profound desire to hire from within at all costs. If you want to see a trainwreck, fill an important role on your team with a candidate who has simply been faithful or has only been a leader in the corporate world. These are not necessarily qualities that guarantee success in a ministry context.

5. The Career Pastor

Myth #5: Only those that have been in ministry before can do this job.

Ministry is littered with success stories of people that stepped in from the corporate or educational sector and have done a tremendous job. One of the best Children’s Pastors I’ve ever met was an elementary physical education teacher. A successful small business owner I know made the transition to Executive Pastor. The list could go on. There is certainly a learning curve to adapt to how a church runs. However, removing a candidate from consideration due to their lack of full-time ministry experience will inevitably take away some very quality candidates.

Don’t fall into the trap of making a “Samuel hire.” Look well beneath the surface at competency and potential, and ensure your candidate's walk with the Lord is strong. These are two of the many areas our team here at Vanderbloemen focus on.

How can your pastor search committee avoid acting on these 5 common myths?

Search: The Pastor Search Committee Handbook