When Is It Time To Hire A Search Firm?


Our team here at Vanderbloemen has a combined 190 years of experience working on church staffs of all sizes and denominations. So we've sat on your side of the table. We know what it’s like to sift through hundreds of resumes during a staff member search. We’ve felt the anxiety of, “What if these people are not the best candidates out there? Will we find the right person who 'gets' our culture and is passionate about our mission? Where can we look for more qualified candidates? What if the pastor is brought on board and then leaves in 6 months?” 

Below are three main indicators that it’s time to partner with a search firm to find your candidates.

1. You’ve exhausted your networks.

Your own personal and professional networks are always the best places to begin looking for great candidates. This pool also often produces good candidates. Comb through your team’s combined networks for talent you know and trust. We encourage all of our clients to do this as they begin a search. The downside of your personal network is that it is limited to only people you know. No matter the size of the church, your personal network will dry up over time.

A church’s denominational networks and local resources are the next obvious places to look. However, these circles aren’t always going to produce the highest-capacity talent. Many denominations have become smaller and thus increasingly less efficient in the area of human resources over the past several decades, and non-denominational churches often don’t have an extensive denominational network. Local or in-house candidates are great, but that pool can run dry quickly.

The same can be said for posting your church staff position on job boards. This will always produce a solid amount of resumes, but it requires weeding through a large amount of non-qualified resumes looking for the right experience, fit, and theological congruency. At some point, the resumes stop rolling in and you’ve exhausted all of your networks. Running out of qualified resumes is a large reason to begin broadening your search scope.

2. You don’t have the time necessary to invest in the search.

Any type of church staff search requires a significant amount of time – usually much more than is initially anticipated – from everyone involved. The question you must ask is two-fold: How much time can we give to this search? And how long do we have before this hire needs to be in place?

The amount of time invested in a pastoral search often directly correlates to the amount of time that search will take. If you can’t sacrifice a large portion of time, the search process will take more time. A significant amount of time needs be given to: defining the needs and specifics of the role, sourcing candidates, combing and contacting networks, combing through resumes, research candidates and places to search, and scheduling and conducting phone interviews, video interviews, spouse interviews, and face to face interviews. How much quality time can be dedicated to each step with each candidate? What of your responsibilities or the church or organization’s day-to-day operations needs to be put on hold in order to invest the time necessary in the search? Can the church afford this loss of productivity and momentum?

It’s also critical for the church leadership to have an honest conversation about the amount of time the church can go without filling that role. How will this vacancy affect attendance, giving, and overall health of the church? An average Senior Pastor search, conducted by the church, can take 18-24 months. Our average Senior Pastor search process takes about 6-9 months. How long can your church afford to wait?

3. You need an expert.

The Church is wonderful at being the church. She’s an expert at caring for the community, discipling believers, spreading the gospel, and building God’s kingdom here on earth. The church is not an expert at human resources and staffing. One of the main reasons we’re brought in to help with a search is the need for an objective expert in these areas.

Our search consultants have over 100 years of combined experience building teams in growing, thriving churches. And when you’re up against a “can’t miss hire,” the need for an expert becomes paramount. A good search firm should be an expert in:

  • Understanding the nuances of a church’s theology
  • Discerning the culture of the staff, congregation, and community
  • Clearly defining what a church wants versus what a church needs
  • Cultivating a clear, detailed, and relevant job description based on the church’s needs
  • Assessing resumes for the necessary experience
  • Networking and recruiting within their personal and professional networks
  • Sourcing and recruiting candidates who haven’t applied for the role
  • Interviewing and thoroughly vetting candidates

When you’ve exhausted your resources, need a hire quickly, don’t have the time to invest in the search, and/or need an expert in staffing and recruiting, it’s probably time to hire a search firm.

If you have a “can’t miss hire” you need help with, we’d love to discuss your staff’s needs. Let us know here.

If you liked this, you’ll also like 3 Reasons Churches Need Objective Eyes