Sasquatch, Unicorns, and Perfect Senior Pastors


Sasquatch, unicorns, and perfect Senior Pastors… What do these three things have in common? Despite growing evidence to the contrary, there are many who claim to have seen one or more of these mythical creatures. As a Search Consultant for churches and ministries, I’ve actually been asked on multiple occasions to find one. Despite my greatest efforts, the coveted “perfect” Senior Pastor is still yet to be discovered.

Here at Vanderbloemen Search Group, we cross the country looking for the highest capacity leaders and pastors for our client churches, and amongst all of the talent, gifts, and potential, we’ve seen one common thread between them all… their glaring lack of perfection. Like mermaids or the Loch Ness monster, the “perfect” candidate doesn’t exist.

There are, however, a few common traits that separate good candidates from great candidates. When your board or search committee assembles to begin a search for a new Senior Pastor, make sure to keep these three characteristics at the forefront of your search:

1. Integrity

It’s vital to find someone of the highest integrity to shepherd your church. But rather than simply trust your gut, there are some steps that can be taken to help objectively measure a candidate’s integrity. Here are just a few bases that we cover during our Executive Search process:

Interview the candidate’s spouse. Nobody knows a person better than their spouse, and you can gain a lot of insight into someone’s heart by having a candid conversation with their spouse. You’ll be able to tell what kind of person your potential hire is just by talking to the person they married.

Review their background. When discussing the candidate’s previous employment, find out if they have left anywhere on bad terms and why. Are they constantly moving around? Sometimes, a lack of stability is a sure-fire way to snuff out someone who’s not willing to endure or persevere through a tough season. Here at Vanderbloemen, we also provide comprehensive background and reference checks during our search process, which can provide a clear view into anyone’s integrity level.

Do they have self-awareness? We sometimes see candidates with only a couple years of ministry experience applying for a senior pastor position. This may be more of a maturity issue than a lack of integrity; however, someone that is overly eager to jump to high-level leadership without ever having “earned their stripes” could potentially be a sign of selfish ambition or a lack of self-awareness and self-leadership

There is no substitute to having a shepherd that has a high moral compass and lives a life above reproach. 

2. Vision

Hellen Keller was once asked, “What would be worse than being born blind?” She replied, “To have sight without vision.”

One of the key ingredients in getting your church to the next level both spiritually and numerically is a clear and concise direction. Many churches either fail at having a clear vision, fail to communicate that vision well, or fail at taking steps to walk that vision out. Seeing where you need to go and knowing how to get there are both critically important to any organization’s long term success. The candidate you hire as your Senior Pastor has to have the ability to see beyond the present and catch a vision for the future of your church. 

3. Selflessness

Too many leaders in ministry have lost the heart behind their original calling. In the race to gain the biggest crowd and garner the most attention, it’s tempting to re-define the true meaning of “pastor.” As Jesus says in Luke 15, a good shepherd willingly will leave his flock in order to tend to the one that has gone astray. Jesus, the ultimate Good Shepherd, also says in John 10, “The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”

After being involved in ministry for much of my life, it’s clear to me that too often the value Jesus talked about has been re-defined as “sacrifice the one that’s gone astray for the masses.” Your Senior Pastor candidate needs to treat individuals with love, care, and respect. Despite modern trends, a “CEO” pastor can and should still seek to have the heart of Jesus. Look for the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. These should be evident in your Senior Pastor candidate’s life no matter the size of the churches the candidate has led.

Are there other qualities to seek in your next Senior Pastor? Absolutely, but these three are a great foundation that should be present in any candidate. Aim high, and have a clear pictures of the needs of your congregation, but if you search for perfection, you’ll be searching for quite a long time.

What are other essential characteristics you seek in a Senior Pastor search?

If you liked this, then you’ll also like 4 Assumptions That Are Preventing You From Making The Right Hire.


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