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4 Ways To Discern If A Pastor's Child Should Be Their Successor

Posted by Sarah Newsome on 5/10/17 7:38 AM

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Finding the right person to succeed the founding or the long-term Senior Pastor of your church is always a challenge. When you’ve only known the church with one person at the helm, the thought of entrusting it to someone new can be downright scary.

When the Senior Pastor has a child who is seen by some in the church as the natural successor, this can add complexity to the already-complicated pastoral transition process. Here are some steps your church leadership can take to help determine whether the pastor’s child is actually the best person to lead your church into a new season. 

1. Assess your needs.

Try to take an objective look at your current Senior Pastor and the state of your church. What do they do well that you want the next leader of your church to continue? What personality traits have served them well in this position? You also need to determine if there are different skills, characteristics, or experiences that you want the new pastor to bring to the position to help lead the church into the next season of ministry. Do you need a visionary? Someone relational? A strong teacher, a charismatic leader, or both? What does your church most need from its next Senior Pastor?

2. Assess your internal candidate.

Once you have determined what kind of person you need to lead your church when your current Senior Pastor steps aside, you can assess whether the pastor’s child truly meets that criteria. In addition to reviewing their experience (generally speaking, as well as experience within the church) and accomplishments, you can use a personality assessment tool to help you make this determination. How do these results align with the needs you’ve identified?

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3. Develop a plan for the pastor’s child.

Now that you’ve assessed both your church’s needs and the pastor’s child who is a candidate for the role—and if you’ve determined that the child is a viable candidate—you can determine where there are gaps between your needs and the candidate's strengths. Depending on your pastor’s timeline for retiring, you can create a plan for helping the successor work on improving their weaker areas before taking the helm. This may include working directly with a coach or consultant, reading a set of books on relevant topics, continued formal education, or some combination of these and other tactics.

4. Run a competitive nationwide search.

This is not only for your own peace of mind but also to have a response to naysayers on either side, no matter your decision. This search for your next leader—whether run by your church or an outside firm—should be open to interested candidates from around the country. There should be a process in place to thoroughly review all these candidates and properly vet the most qualified.

By conducting a rigorous pastor search, your team can not only make a more informed decision about whether to hire your pastor’s child, but they also have stronger reasoning behind their decision when communicating it to the church at large. If you choose to hire the pastor’s child, you can do so knowing that they are truly the most qualified to be in the first chair. And if you don’t choose to hire them, you’ll have a strong rationale for that choice and hopefully another fantastic candidate ready to come on board as a result of your pastor search!

Has your church been through this decision-making process? What did you learn?

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Topics: Hiring & Staffing, Senior Leadership

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