Pastor Search

Should Pastoral Staff Members Serve on the Pastor Search Committee?

During a recent conversation, a friend asked me, “Should other pastoral staff members serve on the Pastor Search Committee for the church’s next Senior/Lead Pastor?” It was a great question. After thinking about it for a few seconds, I answered that in most situations, yes, I think it is helpful for at least one pastoral staff member (Worship Pastor, Discipleship Pastor, Youth Pastor, etc.) to serve on the Search Committee.

After having more time to reflect on that question, I stand by my answer. I think there are several reasons why you might say yes – but also several scenarios when you’ll want to say no! Here are five reasons why you might say yes:

#1: Pastoral Staff are Spiritual Shepherds

One of the most important assignments a church member will ever receive is the responsibility to identify their next pastor as part of the Pastor Search Committee. This task requires a great deal of commitment, patience, and wisdom. 

I’ve witnessed many Pastor Search Committees make mistakes that could have been easily avoided – if they simply had someone to guide them to make wise decisions throughout the pastor search process. Unfortunately, churches with only a single pastor are truly sheep without a shepherd during this time.

However, that doesn’t have to be the case in churches with multiple pastors. While they may not serve in the Senior/Lead Pastor role, other pastors on staff are still pastors. Churches in this situation have another spiritual shepherd who can guide them to make wise and God-honoring decisions at critical points throughout the search process. However, they can only do so if they are a Search Team member.

#2: Indicates Pastoral Staff’s Value

Most churches attempt to include representatives from key ministries and demographics on the Pastor Search Committee. The goal is to ensure these key groups have a “voice” in the pastor search process. 

Unfortunately, some of the folks often excluded from consideration are the individuals who will work closest with the new pastor on a day-to-day basis. When no pastoral staff members are invited to serve on the Pastor Search Committee, it could unintentionally convey that the other pastors’ opinions don’t matter. However, a different message is communicated when a staff member is invited to serve.

#3: Pastoral Staff Can Determine if Candidates are a “Good Fit”

Again, the new pastor will work more with the other pastoral staff than anyone else in the church. It simply makes sense that the church would want to know beforehand if the new pastor and pastoral staff will be able to work well together.

Having served on a church staff in multiple churches myself, I can attest that every church staff has a unique culture often determined by the mix of personalities, experiences, spiritual gifts, and passions of the individual pastors on the team. Based upon these factors, pastors will fit on the staff teams of some churches better than others. 

The church reaps the benefits when it’s a good fit and pastors work well together. When it’s not a good fit, and there’s constant friction among the staff, the church suffers – whether they’re aware of the internal tension or not.

Inviting a pastoral staff member to serve on the Pastor Search Committee can provide insight about a potential candidate’s “fit-ness” on the pastoral staff team that you would not discover otherwise.

#4: Reduces Staff Turnover

Whenever a church calls a new Senior/Lead Pastor, it’s common for many pastoral staff to move on to a new ministry within the first couple of years. These transitions are often due to the lack of cohesion between the Senior Pastor and the pastoral staff.

However, for the reasons already given, including a staff member on the Pastor Search Team increases the chances that the new pastor will work well with existing staff and decreases the chances that staff members will look for another ministry opportunity elsewhere.

#5: The Church is Not a Business

One of the reasons church members sometimes give why a pastoral staff member shouldn’t be included on the Search Team is that they “shouldn’t have the ability to choose their own boss.” While that statement might be true in a corporate or business setting, the church is not a business. Nor should it be run like one. For the reasons already stated, I believe that it’s a good idea to include a pastoral staff member on the Search Team in most situations.

3 Special Scenarios

While I believe it’s a good idea to include a pastoral staff member on the Pastor Search Team in most situations, there are at least three scenarios when it might be best not to include them.

#1: Unhealthy Staff Culture

As I mentioned earlier, some staff cultures are unhealthy at best and toxic at worst. Whenever there is conflict or division among the pastoral staff, it’s probably best to avoid inviting a staff member to serve on the Search Team. For example, if there is significant conflict between two groups of pastoral staff members, including a staff member from one group but not the other could cause more harm than help.

#2: Staff Members with Personal Agendas

In a previous post, I mentioned seven people you want to avoid including on your Pastor Search Committee. One of those individuals is a person who has a personal agenda and will not settle for anything less than absolute alignment with their preferences. This suggestion also applies to any staff member who has a personal agenda. In this scenario, just say no!

#3: Staff Members Who Want to Become a Candidate

It’s not uncommon for pastoral staff members to express interest in becoming a candidate for the Senior/Lead Pastor role themselves. In fact, I know of several churches where this has happened. 

In that scenario, the pastoral staff member should not be asked to serve. If he doesn’t sense or express a desire until he is already on the Search Committee, he should step away from the Search Committee the moment he aspires to become a candidate.

Case-by-Case Basis

Should pastoral staff members be allowed to serve on the Pastor Search Team? In general, I believe the answer is yes. However, there are scenarios when it would be better if they did not serve. 

Ultimately, each church must make this decision for themselves on a case-by-case basis. However, I hope this post has provided some food for thought as you decide what’s best in your church’s context!

P.S. If you found this post helpful, check out my book The Church During the Search, which explains six commitments every church member needs to make to honor the Lord during the pastor search process.

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

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