Mistakes Churches Make During the Pastor Search Process, Part 1

I. Top Mistakes During the Pastor Search Process

One of the reasons I appreciate Pastor Search Committees that take the time to get trained is that they have the opportunity to learn how to avoid common search team mistakes. My peers, that work with pastorless churches, have found that there are some common mistakes made by search teams. Indeed, these mistakes seem to be common no matter what the size of the church or what type of community the church is in. These mistakes include:

A. The search committee doesn’t get trained. When help is offered, many search teams say, “We don’t need any help. In fact, we have a search team every other year, so we know what we’re doing.”

B. The church is in a hurry to get the new pastor. They have adopted a new mission statement: “Get a pastor faster.” They pressure the search team to move quickly, not prudently.

C. The search committee lies to the candidate. Lying is rarely overt “alternate facts.” Instead, the search team never talks about “it.” Nevertheless, everyone on the team knows not to mention “it” to pastor candidates. They fear that no pastor will come if the candidate knows about this elephant in the room. The honeymoon will be over when the pastor discovers this secret matter.

D. The search team and church are only concerned with finding a great preacher. After all, the search team surveyed the church, and getting a good preacher was the only trait that the church agreed upon. The other major needs of the church are simply ignored or are unknown.

E. The interim pastor’s only duty is to preach. Many churches operate under the century-old tradition that interim pastors should, “Love us, preach to us, but leave us alone.” It’s easy money for the interim pastor preaching a file of old sermons. The church members compliment the preaching as “better than normal.” Plus, the church saves money and can pay some old bills. However, this approach means the next pastor inherits the church in the same condition as the last pastor left it.

Doing the search right takes time and hard work. While there are never any guarantees, isn’t it logical that a pastor and church will have a much better future together if the search process is done well and wisely? A trained interim pastor, who makes sure the search team is trained and who consults with them throughout their time together, can insure that “best practices” are adhered to. Those better practices will certainly pay off for any search process.

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