It’s inevitable. All pastors will move on at some point. Whether it’s retirement, going to another church, or an unexpected passing away, no one stays at the same place forever. Most pastors love their flock and understand that their calling to shepherd is a weighty responsibility. However, pastors often don’t think the process of pastoral succession is their job.
Having the right church leaders in place is a critical part of the success of a ministry, but it’s getting them there that is the hardest part. And who you have on your search team makes a big difference when you’re looking for that key hire. Choosing who to have on your pastor search committee is an important decision and should be approached thoughtfully and prayerfully.
Though any Lead Pastor transition is an important one, replacing a long-tenured Senior Pastor often carries a lot more weight and is filled with nuances outside a normal pastor search. We’ve walked alongside hundreds of churches during this holy crossroads, and we can tell you that a pastor search like this is so important to get right.
Here are three things to consider when searching for a new pastor after a long-tenured one.
Let’s face it, not all ministry resumes are created equal. Some people have known what they wanted to do since first grade and have focused on education and activities that are attractive to potential employers in their desired career path. Many others discover a later-in-life calling to what they were made to do.
When a church is looking for a new Senior Pastor, more often than not, they elect a Pastor Search Committee, Pastor Nominating Committee, or Call Committee, etc. A Pastor Search Committee usually does not include any staff members from the church. This helps the Pastor Search Committee maintain objectivity, keeping the best interests of the church (and not their own jobs or work culture) in mind.
An extremely important part of the church staffing and hiring process is conducting due diligence on candidates. The information uncovered in the due diligence process is very valuable in that it may give specific insight into whether the candidate is a good fit for your church and, if so, the best way to lead the candidate.
I was recently meeting with a church’s elder board where they asked me how many Senior Pastor searches our team here at Vanderbloemen has been a part of. The answer was hundreds - more if you count the Lead Pastor searches that our team members were involved in during their tenures on church staffs around nation before they joined our team. I then posed the same question to them, "How many times have you been involved in a search process for a Pastor?" to which they replied, “Well… zero.”
Scenario: You’re a church job candidate that’s been through a phone screen. The search committee has flown you and your family out to the church for a weekend on-site visit. You’ve taken a tour of the campus, had meals with church staff and key lay leaders, and sat through multiple interview sessions. It’s even possible that you’ve preached a sermon, taught a large group or led worship. You left feeling confident that things went well and that you are a great fit for the church. Then: silence. The committee gets really quiet for a prolonged amount of time.
Pastor search commitees 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.