Whenever a church begins to search for a new pastor, one of the first tasks they will complete is to form a pastor search committee, a group entrusted with the task of searching for and recommending the church’s next pastor to the congregation. Most churches have some guidance for how to form the search committee in their Constitution & Bylaws. Information regarding the number of committee members (less is preferable, by the way), specific roles or positions in the church who are automatically placed on the committee (deacon chairman, Sunday School director, etc.), and the process for selecting members may be included in these documents.
Recently, I was asked to provide guidance for the characteristics of individuals to avoid placing on a Pastor Search Committee. As I thought more about this question, I realized that guidance for which individuals to include on the Pastor Search Committee is relatively easy to find for most churches. However, guidance for which individuals to avoid placing on the Pastor Search Committee is scarce. In light of that observation, here’s a list of 7 individuals to avoid placing on your Pastor Search Committee:
- Avoid those who are spiritually immature. Searching for a new pastor is one of the most critical seasons in the life of a congregation. As anyone who has ever served on a Pastor Search Committee would tell you, it is also an incredibly challenging assignment. Therefore, those entrusted with this assignment must spiritually be up to the task. Just as I would never allow my eleven-year-old to be in charge of my family’s finances because he lacks the maturity needed for the task, avoid placing spiritually immature church members on your Pastor Search Committee as well.
- Avoid those who are unwilling to keep an open mind. Some church members have very specific criteria in mind for their church’s next pastor, and they are often unwilling to deviate from their preferences for any reason. For example, they may prefer a pastor of a certain age, education, experience, or family size, and they’re unwilling to consider any candidates that don’t check all of their boxes. For these individuals, even Jesus Himself would likely not match their criteria. Such an individual will not yield their preferences even to the clear prompting of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, you should avoid placing such an individual on your Pastor Search Committee.
- Avoid those who are too busy to serve. I’m so grateful for those faithful church members who are always willing to step up to serve when called upon. Every church has some of those members. Unfortunately, those church members are often asked to serve in many different roles in the church, and they can become stretched too thin if they’re not careful. Whenever a congregation begins to consider potential Search Committee members, there’s a tendency to ask those who are already serving to add another significant commitment to their schedule. While you don’t want inactive members to be asked to serve on the committee, you also need to avoid those active members who are willing, but cannot invest the time necessary to accomplish the task of calling a new pastor.
- Avoid those who are too lazy to serve. On the other hand, you also want to avoid the opposite extreme. Lazy is a strong word, and I don’t use it lightly. However, the reality is that there are some who are described in the Bible as “sluggards”. These are people who have the time to serve on the Pastor Search Committee, but they would simply not be willing to put in the long hours to faithfully fulfill the task assigned to them. Pastor Search Committees have many time-consuming tasks to complete, and each member needs to pull their weight. One or two committee members who slack off in their responsibilities will make the task much more difficult than it needs to be for the rest of the committee.
- Avoid those who are related to other committee members. On a committee of 5-7 individuals, every vote and perspective matters. That’s why I recommend that churches avoid placing more than one individual from the same family on the committee because it would be perceived that the family in question would have more power and influence over the Search Committee’s work. Whether it be a husband and wife or a father-in-law and son-in-law or two first cousins, it’s better to avoid including family relatives on the Pastor Search Committee if at all possible.
- Avoid those without a teachable spirit. There’s a strong possibility that the church’s Pastor Search Committee will include at least a few individuals who have never served on a previous Search Committee. Therefore, they will be unfamiliar with the process and how to proceed. That’s why books, blogs, and outside consultants (associational leaders, state convention representatives, or other consultants) are a tremendous help for Pastor Search Committees. However, providing these resources to a Search Committee is a waste of time if the committee members are unwilling to heed the counsel and advice of others. Therefore, I would encourage you to avoid including those who think they don’t need any help.
- Avoid those who are interested in the position themselves. Regardless of the size of your church, there may be some members who have a desire to become your next pastor. If that is the case (and you’re aware of it), do not place them – or another member of their family – on your Pastor Search Committee as that scenario would immediately become a significant conflict of interest. Additionally, it could also become a source of conflict in your church as well. I’m not saying anything about the individual’s suitability to become your next pastor. He may be a fine candidate for the position, but he would be a terrible candidate for your Pastor Search Committee.
Those who serve on your Pastor Search Committee have been entrusted with an important task. If you avoid including these seven individuals on your church’s committee, your congregation will be much better off for it!