So, your church is looking for a new pastor? If so, you’re in good company. The reality is that every church will eventually experience a season without a pastor. Some pastors will retire, some will be called to a different church, some may resign under pressure, and some may be called home to glory while still holding the office of pastor.
While the details regarding a pastor’s departure may vary, all churches will share the common experience of a season of transition at some point. During that season, there are many steps that your church will need to complete before you call your next pastor. One of the earliest tasks that must be completed will be to determine who will actually conduct your pastor search.
Keep in mind that not all churches will form a pastor search committee. In some churches, the elders or the deacons will conduct the search. In other churches, a new pastor will be appointed by an outside source. However, for most churches, a pastor search committee will be created to conduct the pastor search on behalf of the congregation. If that describes your church, here are five suggestions for forming your search committee:
- Consult your church’s Constitution & Bylaws. Does your Constitution & Bylaws specify the number of people who need to serve on the committee? Are there any written policies that specify that a person who holds a certain office (e.g. Chairman of Deacons or Sunday School Director) is automatically included on the pastor search committee? Before you form your committee, you need to make sure that you are legally following your church’s governing documents.
- Keep the committee small. The larger the search committee, the more opinions that you’ll have in the room. And the more opinions you have in the room, the harder it will be to form a consensus, which will most likely make your pastor search last longer. If the committee determines that they must be unanimous with the selection of a candidate, you may end in a stalemate several times with a larger committee. Therefore, in my experience, the most efficient committee size has been either 5 or 7 (but not 6; it’s best to keep an odd number on the committee). If you are a member of a large church, perhaps 7 or 9 will be acceptable. It would be an extremely rare occasion when the number of committee members rises into the double digits.
- Select members that are spiritually mature/Word-centered. This should go without saying, but unfortunately that’s not always the case. You need people on the search committee who are humble, discerning, and who don’t just believe the Bible, but they live obediently to what God’s Word says.
- Select members that don’t have an agenda. In other words, they are not concerned with finding a pastor that will cater just to their needs, particular ministry, or particular group in the church. Instead, select people who are committed to finding a pastor that will be best for the church as a whole, even if he’s not what’s best for their particular interests.
- Select members who are available to serve. There may be people in your church that meet the criteria listed in the first four suggestions, and you are confident that they would be a valuable member of the search committee. However, they maintain a very busy schedule and would not be available to attend all of your meetings. In my experience, it would be best to look for other candidates to serve on the committee instead.
There are many other considerations to keep in mind when forming your search committee, but I have found these suggestions to be most important.
If your church is searching for a pastor right now, but you’re not on the pastor search committee, you may feel like you don’t have a role in your pastor search. Nothing could be further from the truth! You have an active role to play, and I’ve recently published a book which explains exactly what that role entails.
The book is The Church During the Search, and it describes six commitments that every church member needs to make during the congregation’s search for a new pastor in order to ensure a healthy transition from your previous pastor to your next pastor.
You can learn more about the book or purchase your copy right here. I pray it will help you to honor Christ while you wait for your next pastor!