Ministry Research, Pastor Search

Pastor Search Survey Results

As a denominational servant, I am regularly called upon to assist churches as they embark on the task of searching for a new pastor. In consulting with pastor search committees, I have found that some are much better than others in going about this important work.

While many great books, articles, and resources have been written on the subject, most have been written from an anecdotal point of view.  Few have attempted to conduct research to discover best practices or common missteps in the pastor search process. In April 2018, an attempt was made to fill that void by conducting an online survey to allow multiple voices to speak into the good, the bad, and the ugly of pastor searches.

The results of that study are included in my latest report: “Searching For Ways to Search For A Pastor: An Examination of the Best & Worst Practices in the Pastor Search Process.”

While this is not (technically) a scientific study, it does provide some valuable insights into the best and worst practices of pastor search committees from a variety of relevant perspectives.  The largest three groups who responded to the survey were:

  • Pastors who have dealt with a pastor search committee in the past
  • Consultants who either train or advise pastor search committees
  • Individuals who have served on a pastor search committee

While you can read the report to discover the specific best and worst practices, the research identified five commitments (or attitudes if you prefer an alternate term) that pastor search committees need to consider in order to put themselves in a position to conduct an effective pastor search.  Committees need to commit to:

  • Be humble.
  • Be prayerful.
  • Be patient.
  • Be intentional.
  • Be thorough.

The majority of best practices from the study flow out of these five commitments, while the worst practices flow out of lack of making and maintaining these commitments.  However, these commitments certainly do not guarantee that a pastor search will go smoothly. Even with the best laid plans and strategies, there can be bumps in the road. Still, if a committee does not make these commitments, they are almost certainly setting themselves up for a very bumpy ride.

If you are serving on a pastor search committee, I hope you will review the report and also share it with the rest of your committee members.  Take some time to conduct a self-assessment to see if you have made these commitments as a search team.  If not, there’s no better time to begin than now!

If you are a consultant, I hope the report will be helpful for you as you advise churches in this very important work. If you believe there is useful information contained in the research, feel free to share it with any search committees that you consult in the future.

If you are a pastor, I hope you will keep these commitments in mind if you ever talk with another pastor search committee in the future. Use the report’s summary page to help you assess if the committee is being humble, prayerful, patient, intentional, and thorough.

For all who read this post, would you join me in praying for the countless churches who find themselves searching for a pastor right now?  Pray that God would lead them to the one who will shepherd the flock for many fruitful years to come.


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