In a previous post I noted different trends among pastoral search committees. As I stated then, I am using the phrase “pastoral search committee,” even though it does not apply to every congregation. Some churches receive pastors through an appointment system from denominational leadership. Some pastors are chosen from a body of elders. The methods of pastoral selection are numerous.
Every church, however, searches for a pastor in the course of its history. After speaking with dozens of search groups, I’ve noticed a pattern in how they are evaluating prospective pastors. There is nothing new in what they are evaluating. What is new is how they are evaluating.
In a significant number of searches, perhaps a majority, the pastor search process takes place in four layers or levels. While each is important, the church assigns the greatest value to the first. The process is more subjective than objective, but the result is a clear definition of priorities in how a church evaluates a prospective pastor.
Level 1: Biblical, Theological, and Preaching
- Does he meet our theological and biblical beliefs?
- How does he respond to theological “hot button” issues?
- Does his practice match his beliefs?
- Is he an effective preacher?
- Would his preaching be well received by our church and community?
- Does he have several podcast sermons for ready listening?
Level 2: Background Information
- Does a legal background check reveal any issues of which we weren’t aware?
- Does a credit check reveal any financial concerns of which we should be aware?
- What has he communicated in the social media via Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other channels?
- What do his references say about him?
- What do others who aren’t references say about him?
Level 3: Leadership and Relational Skills
- Is he an effective leader?
- How would his leadership style fit at our church?
- How does he handle conflict?
- Does he have healthy relational skills?
- Does he lead his family well?
Level 4: Previous and Current Church Experience
- Did he lead his church to healthy growth?
- Was he a missional leader in the church’s community?
- Does his past experience indicate he understands culture and contexts well?
- What were his primary emphases at previous and current churches?
- Did he relate to other church staff well?
My simple point in showing four different levels is to demonstrate that most search committees have clear priorities. Rarely, however, are these priorities articulated. They know they will not find a perfect pastor. Since some imperfections will exist in all candidates, the search committee is much more likely, for example, to accept a Level 4 flaw rather than a Level 1 flaw. All of these issues are important to the pastor search committee; some are just more important than others.
Do you see similar patterns as shown in these four levels? What would you add or subtract?