So, you’re looking for a new pastor? Maybe so and maybe not. If you remain an active church member long enough, there is a really good chance that your church will have to do so in the future. And it may be sooner than you think. Why? Because Thom Rainer reports that the average tenure of a pastor is only between three and four years.
In my much more limited experience as a Director of Missions, that number seems to be about right. As I write this post, 5 out of the 25 churches in my association (20%) are currently searching for new pastors, and 3 other churches have called a new pastor during the past three years. Not only do churches frequently have to conduct pastor searches, it is also a long and time-consuming process when they do. According to William Vanderbloemen, the average church takes between twelve to twenty-four months to find a new pastor.
As I have consulted with churches during their pastor search, here’s what I have discovered: no two pastor search processes are the same because no two churches are exactly the same. Every church will conduct their search differently, and that’s ok.
Although the details of the search may be different for each church, is there a general template that churches can follow when conducting their pastor search? I believe that the answer is yes. Here is a simple 4-step process that I advise Southern Baptist churches in my association to follow:
- Preparation: Before the search committee jumps headfirst into reviewing resumes, they need to take the time to prepare for the search. This includes both spiritual preparation as well as practical preparation. Although it will delay the start of your search, it will save you a lot of time (and tears!) later.
- Search: This is the step in the process that church members think about the most: soliciting, collecting, and reviewing resumes.
- Selection: This is the step when the search committee selects the man that they will present to the church as their recommendation to become the next pastor.
- Support: This is the step that I have found is most likely to be forgotten or neglected in pastor searches. During the transition time, the church should do everything in their power to help make the transition as easy as possible on the new pastor and his family.
Keep in mind that there is certainly more than one way to conduct a pastor search, but I do believe that if you follow these four general steps, it will make a very difficult task a little easier. Over the next several posts, I will share more practical suggestions on how to implement each of these steps in the pastor search process. If your church is currently searching for a pastor, please know that I am praying for you, and I hope that these posts will be helpful to you!