University Reformed Church will soon be forming a pastoral search committee to look for the church’s next senior pastor. The process can be daunting, but it can also be a spiritually unifying and edifying time for the committee and for the congregation. Thankfully, there are a number of resources out there to help churches set up a good process (and avoid common mistakes).
Last year I wrote about 7 Common Mistakes Search Committees Make:
1. Overcompensating for the previous pastor’s weaknesses.
2. Mishandling internal candidates.
3. Communicating too little.
4. Taking too much time.
5. Crafting an impossible job description.
6. Failing to check references.
7. Expecting all the best candidates to come to you.
Here’s another list of 7 Common Mistakes. This one, put out by LifeWay’s William Vanderbloemen, includes things like: too few or too many people on the committee, not establishing roles on the committee, and not establishing a process for making decisions.
The PCA has a 16-page document laying out a potential search process. And here is a 6-page Manual for Calling a Pastor (somewhat PCA specific). And here’s a brochure on finding a pastor put out by Reformed Theological Seminary.
On the important subject of communication, I’ve written before that search committees should not be stealth committees:
Communication has never been easier so there is no excuse for churches not to be more professional in this area. A quick phone call or a brief email is all that may be necessary to keep a candidate from spinning out a hundred “what if” scenarios in his mind for another month. Of course, the committee doesn’t need to divulge their own private conversations or concerns, but they should be able to let people know in a timely fashion whether they are in or out and what they should expect next.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach the pastoral search process, but most articles and books focus on the same important principles: prayer, communication, honesty, follow through, realistic expectations, and hard work. And when in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask other pastors and other churches for advice.