6 Questions Pastor Search Committees Should Ask Before Beginning A Search


As a newly-formed pastor search committee, it’s often hard to know where to start. You know you need a new pastor, but the steps it takes to get there tend to be foggy. To ensure a successful and relatively painless search, search committees need to consider their process first.

Before you start posting a job description and calling on candidates, take time to think through the questions below.

Search Committees with the most clarity on the front end have the best success in the long run. Tweet: Search Committees with the most clarity on the front end have the best success in the long run. http://bit.ly/1VtLAoW via @VanderbloemenSG

1. What is our game plan?

This seems like a no brainer, but it is probably the most important step in preparing for a church staff member search. If the search committee can create a game plan before getting started, the search will move much smoother and quicker. Here are some examples of questions to ask:

  • Who is going to lead this team?
  • What is each person’s duty on this team?
  • Where do we start looking?
  • How will we sort and evaluate candidates?
  • What’s our process for interviewing candidates?
  • How will we vote and make decisions? 

Start by asking these questions and try to create a general game plan for your search. 

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2. Who are we looking for?

This is a bit nebulous sounding, but the goal here is develop a  profile of the type of pastor you’re looking for. It will be extremely difficult to differentiate between potential candidates if there is no goal for you to compare them with.

  • What is the background and experience level of our ideal candidate?     
  • What teaching style are we seeking?
  • What type of leader do we need?

One great way to create this profile is to conduct a survey of your congregation, asking them their thoughts on your last leader and what they desire in a new one.

3. What are our non-negotiable requirements?

A word of caution before you begin this candidate profile: there is no perfect candidate. It’s impossible to expect one candidate to be able to check all of your boxes, so keep your requirements focused on the things the church really needs, not just wants. Take time to nail down a list of the “must haves” of a new pastor that the whole pastor search committee can agree upon. 

4. What is on our wish list?

This is a question you could easily spend several meetings discussing, so you may want to put a time limit on the conversation. You’ll want to characterize the items on this list as optional check boxes. Essentially, these “wish list” items are things like size of last church served or connection to your community.

This shouldn’t be blue-sky thinking; rather, these would be some potential "bonus" traits to look for a candidate. This should be about the qualities your church would be thrilled to have, but you wouldn’t disqualify a candidate for not having them.

5. What kind of teacher/preacher are we looking for?

It may come as a surprise to hear that 75% of the time, when we ask the question, “How long is a good sermon?” a pastor search committee doesn’t know or agree on the answer. Take the time to research and ask the questions needed to identify the type of teacher you’re looking for in your new pastor.

Some considerations to discuss with the committee:

  • What is a good average sermon time?
  • Topical or Exegetical preaching style?
  • Relational or Intellectual communication?
  • Will they teach 52 Sundays a year or will there be support teaching?

Use these questions as a guide when thinking through the type of communicator the church is looking for.

6. What does our church expect from us?

What type of pastor is your congregation expecting you to find? What’s the timeline they are expecting this to be completed within? What type of communication and feedback are they expecting throughout the process? All of these are questions best asked by the pastor search committee early on so that they can be addressed in the beginning.

Plan to communicate these answers to your church body so that they can be in the loop throughout the entire search process.

Finding your new pastor is a daunting task, but taking the time to prepare on the front end will pay out dividends in the long run. Asking these 6 questions will start you on the right track toward finding your next senior leader.

What are some other questions your search committee would benefit from asking?

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