Five Pleas to Pastors from Pastor Search Committees

In a post last week, I noted five pleas from pastors to search committee. In this post, I share some pleas I have heard to pastors from search committees.

As I noted last week, congregations across America call pastors to their churches in a variety of ways. As church polity varies, so do the approaches of calling a pastor. A bishop or other authority appoints some pastors. Sometimes an elder board decides who will be considered as the next pastor. Many times, however, the responsibility for recommending a pastor to a congregation falls upon a pastor search committee.

The search committee is typically comprised of lay leaders voted on by the congregation or nominated by some group in the church. Occasionally, the membership may include a current pastoral staff member.

In my conversations with search committees, many of the members have shared with me how pastors can best make the process more effective. Here are five of their “pleas.”

  1. “Tell us when you are no longer interested.” We could be spending a lot of time checking your references, doing credit checks, and listening to podcasts of your sermons. Please let us know so we can move to another candidate.
  2. “Let us know of any major personal issues on the front end so we are not surprised.” We will likely conduct a credit check, a legal background check, and a social media check. Tell us in advance if there are issues we might find. That does not mean we will automatically eliminate you from consideration.
  3. “Please share with us if your family is struggling with the possibility of a move.” We know that a move to another church and another town is a major disruption in your family’s life. You will not be happy and productive if they are unhappy. Let’s work through those issues on the front end.
  4. “If you are in serious discussions with another church or churches, please let us know.” We may be dealing solely with you with the perception that you are doing likewise with us. We could, therefore, lose a lot of time if we only deal with you, and then discover that you have decided to go to another church.
  5. “Please respond as promptly as possible to our requests.” The pastor search process is arduous and often lengthy. Help us as much as you can so we can keep moving toward some type of decision.

You might want to compare this post to last week’s post from the pastors’ perspective.

What has been your experience with pastor search committees? What do you think of these pleas?


    • Mark says

      Please explain to me what that is. I think I know but don’t want to comment on it based only on my assumptions.

    • Another Mark says


      If your requesting a financial giving report, which I have no problem with your requesting I would caution two things, first I would caution that there is often times quite a bit given that can not be shown on paper. I, as a pastor, choose not to turn in expense reports or even keep receipts for much of what my wife and I personally by for the church (not that it is wrong, I just don’t want people trying to claim I am nickel and diming the church), yet we look at this as part of our giving. We do not buy these things for tax purposes nor do we think of them as ours. Should I pull the light bulbs I bought out of the ceiling when I leave? I say this half joking because I know congregation members who have done such things.

      Second, I would mention that often some of our giving is to missions organizations, missionaries and those Christian brothers and sisters that need some extra to get by. These may or may not be listed on an expense sheet anywhere. If I slip a student on a camp team a $50 and tell them to get a real meal as a team I want no credit for that nor will I take any.

      So please don’t look at my giving statement and say he only gave X% to the church, I may be giving much more and not letting my “left hand know what my right hand is doing.”

  1. Mark says

    Looking at this from the secular world, which is similar to the religious world on a long of things, an applicant must remember that the search committee is not on his/her side. If I as an applicant tell a search committee that I am looking somewhere else too, I have just removed myself from serious consideration. If I am just completing school, then it needs to be presumed that I have other applications pending.

    Having sat on secular search committees and been an applicant, we (search committee) wound up ranking the applicants and hoping for #1 but being happy with the #2. Just because a candidate has been chosen does not mean that the process is finished. There Are the family moving, contract terms, salary, and a host of other issues that must be resolved.

    Also, what is the length of the contract? One year, two years or longer? This can result in a short term job which means that the person is still conducting a job search for a longer term position in case the contract is not renewed.

  2. Craig says

    I have a spouse that has a disease. I usually tell the search team during or after the questionnaire phase of the job search. This has proved to be sufficient amount of communication. Struggling with a move is very normal for most people that have children, have been settled for a few years and have a home to sale. I recently had to place a “pause” with one church due to the school year starting soon and my wife is a teacher. There was not enough time to candidate, prepare a home to sale, pack, move and unpack before the school year started. There is also the problem of no income and insurance if your spouse is a teacher. The problem if letting one church know too early that you are a possible candidate at another church is that there is no guarantee that you will be called or that you want to be called after going to the church. If you are a candidate for a position, there is NO reason for not responding. The same goes for the church searching not to respond to a candidate. It seems we actually communicate worse even though we have more forms of communication.

  3. Mark says

    When will we get down to discussing the search committee and it’s composition? That alone has a large role in the process. I know there are politics involved in even being selected for the search committee.

  4. Chris says

    I would add, be honest on your resume. Too many stories of pastors lying about degrees and successes at past churches on their resumes. It is one thing to highlight ministerial accomplishments on your resume, quite another to lie.

  5. Don Ward says

    I’ve planted two churches and that was much easier than dealing with pulpit committees. I had an excellent opportunity a few years ago for which I came in second or third. I was led to believe that they were coming to hear me preach, and suddenly things got cryptic and comms went dark on me. I could tell something was up. I would have appreciated knowing that they were vetting their number one. I was very honored to be considered at such a great church. I was at peace either way.

    I did have one pulpit committee be very frank and told me I was being considered, and was in the top 3 or 4. That was great.

    I also recommend having your best communicators doing the contact. I was called for a screening interview once by a very grumpy older gentleman. He talk me my current church was too small. I was glad not to be going there after talking with him. I emailed the chair of their committee thinking they might lose their true number one candidate if that gent called him.

    Great topic!

  6. David says

    A credit check? That seems odd to me. Do churches really say ‘I am sorry sir your credit isn’t good enough to be our pastor. We were looking for a score of at least 650’?

    • Thom Rainer says

      A credit check reveals issues that potentially reflect on the character of the pastor. A person who does not pay his bills may not be someone above reproach, the primary qualifier for a pastor.

  7. Keith Wuchter says

    I would also say that one needs to be up front with a search committee about all things. For example, two churches in my area have recently called pastors who within a few months/years have shown that each one seems to have an issue with visitations, to the point of even lying about having done them, or even about making the attempt, to just outright not doing them. Is this something new? Isn’t visiting your flock, especially when shut-in or infirmed, one of the paramount issues for a pastor? These two churches are both in the same community, and frankly the people of each congregation are completely amazed how this can even be a problem for someone who’s been “called by God” to the vocation. I admit I am as well.

  8. david clegg says

    During a recent search for a Student Minister three candidates did some things during their interview that I thought would have been common sense not to do. One candidate kept checking his iPhone during the interview: leave you phone in you car. Another candidate was very negative about his current situation, blaming everyone else for all the problems. A third candidate disclosed way too much detailed personal information about the abuse in his family when he was growing up. These three things were huge turn offs to the committee.
    Use common sense!

    • Thom Rainer says

      Well said, David. I recently heard from a committee person who said the candidate wore sandals with no socks, and took off his sandals during the interview.

  9. Chris Doyel says

    I chaired a Pastor Search Committee after the first one’s recommendation was turned down by the congregation. We went through the usual process of defining required characteristics, gathering resumes, praying over them and selecting who we thought were our top candidates. The one thing that I thought was key to finding God’s choice for us was praying that we would be as receptive to the voice of the Holy Spirit as Samuel was when he identified David as the future king of Israel. I felt that God lead us directly to the right man. We had a full concensus and only one desenting vote when he was presented to the congregation. For us, it turned out to be an exciting and spiritually fulfilling experience.

  10. says

    These are both good posts Tom. My only thought is as a pastor who has walked through multiple search processes in church is where I became the pastor and in coaching a few search committees as they went through the process. The onus of responsibility with regard to pour process and a lack of appropriately goodwill is almost entirely on the part of the search committees.

    Pastors make mistakes in these processes but even the vast majority of those are driven by the lack of health in the congregational search process. I’m a congregational pastor and I’m not necessarily advocating for an appointment system but most search committees either arrogantly go through the process without seeking appropriate counsel assuming that they know how to do a good job when they do not or the process gets bogged down in so much on biblical thinking about the hiring process that the search process can often become a very divisive issue in the life of the church at the very time when it needs unity most.

    These are good thoughts. I would just like to see more search committees go out of their way to get help in going through the process in a healthy way.

  11. Rick says

    #1, #2 and possibly #4 could also apply to the committee in their treatment of candidate. They aren’t always candid about the condition of the church. Some have been known to keep candidates hanging by telling them of their interest in order to keep them engaged, just in case things don’t work out with the one they are really focusing their attention on. Cuts both ways… A simple phone call and a few thoughtful questions and some honest answers should fix it. It’s called communication!

  12. Roger C. says

    Concerning #4, I don’t believe it would be best to notify a search committee that you are also in the process with another church unless a church extends a call and you really want another position and you let them know in hopes that they would speed up this long exhausting process they are currently carrying out. I believe you would be eliminated from consideration if the committee knows you are in talks with another church.

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