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 experience, that number seems to be about right. As I write this post, 1 out of every 4 churches in my association are currently searching for new pastors, and over 70% of the churches in my association have had a pastoral transition in the past 5 years. Not only do churches frequently have to conduct pastor searches, but 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 its 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 the answer is yes. I advise the churches in my association to follow a 5-phase pastor search process:
- Setup: 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.
- Study: After preparing for the search process, pastor search committees need to study the current realities of their church, community, and what they need to look for in their next pastor. There is a temptation to skip this step as well, but search committees need to know what they are looking for before they can actually conduct the search.
- Search: This is the phase in the process that church members think about the most: soliciting, collecting, and reviewing resumes.
- Selection: This is the phase 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 phase that is most likely to be forgotten or neglected in pastor searches. During the transition time, the church should do everything in its power to help make the transition as easy as possible for the new pastor and his family.
Keep in mind that there is certainly more than one way to conduct a pastor search, but if your church will commit to following these 5 phases in sequential order, it will make a very difficult task a little easier.