What would your church do if you suddenly found yourself without a senior pastor?
Does your church leadership already have a plan in-place for finding and bringing in a new pastor?
If not, or if those plans are a bit dated, the latest book by William Vanderbloemen is a great resource.
You might think a handbook would start right into the details of process and procedure. The first thing I appreciated about Search was how the author began by discussing the importance of prayer and seeking God’s wisdom. He offers tips on how and what to pray, including Scriptures to pray with and for the search committee.
You can set up testing and systems, check references, and listen to sermons, but at the end of the day, you as a committee will have to make a judgment call. Search is a spiritual exercise in discernment.
The next section of the handbook includes tips on how to lay a solid foundation before you start actually searching, including:
- Consider the circumstances under which your former senior pastor left.
- How will you communicate the search process and status to the congregation?
- Who will be on the search committee and how will they make decisions?
- Define the search timeline and budget.
- What is our church’s mission and values?
- What’s the job description for this role?
- Do we have any internal candidates?
Here are a few of my key takeaways from the book:
Use discernment and be realistic when documenting your church’s vision:
If the apostle Paul wouldn’t be able to achieve your vision, you’re likely aiming too high.
Don’t forget to include the congregation in the process:
…congregations are most negatively affected by feeling that they don’t have a say in the process.
Document the job description for a senior pastor at your church. Once you have a draft completed, review it and consider if it’s possible for one person to achieve.
Make sure you’re balancing the requirements of the role with the abilities of a human being.
While you want to put your church’s best foot forward with potential candidates, be open about your church’s challenges and current situation.
One great way to be completely transparent with your pastor candidates is to give them references for your church.
Something I really appreciated about this book is how the author doesn’t conclude with “Congrats, you’ve made an offer and the candidate accepted!”. Instead, he also provides practical tips on how to welcome your new pastor and his family along with how to help your new pastor get acclimated to the community and to the church.
As one would expect for a handbook, Search includes very practical steps and tips to a successful pastor search process. However, the author goes a step further to address the spiritual, emotional, and relational aspects of such an important process. He refers to finding a new pastor as an organ transplant. This is someone who will lead the congregation, offer spiritual direction and leadership, preach the Word, and much more…hopefully for many years to come. Before your church faces such a critical decision, I highly recommend buying Search to help you develop a process that can help you make the best choice possible for your church.