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Apr 22
2015

Thoughts on a Pastoral Search Committee

Posted by: Steve Marr

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I received a phone call from “Mike,” a member of a church search committee seeking a new senior pastor. The question was “How do we know how to look for the right fit with a new senior pastor?”

Rather than just tossing out a tool, I asked a few questions: What is the mission/vision of the church? What does the church expect from a senior pastor in the areas of preaching, teaching, evangelism, or administration? What are the most important gifts? What is the underlying culture of the church?

 

Paul wrote “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.” (1 Corinthians 12:4, NIV). No one person can or should encompass every possible gift. Part of God’s plan for the church is to use the diversity of gifts. Each pastor, based on the gifting provided by God, will have a different style and focus from another. These differences are not necessarily good or bad, just different. The key is to insure the right match.

Mike asked, “Why is the church culture important?” My response guided him to identify what was important to the people. For example, who visits the sick and hospitalized?  Is it the pastor, the pastoral staff, lay members, or all of the above? If the church culture expects the pastor to visit all the sick, but a prospective pastor is used to a culture where church members visit; it may be a disconnect.

Another example is to identify how decisions are made for the church. Some churches have a culture where the board makes important decisions.  However, if a prospective pastor comes from an experience where the pastor is the key decision maker, it sets up the possibility for misunderstanding. The decision process is important for everyone to understand.

A new pastor needs to be in harmony with the mission, vision and ministry plan of the church. For example, the 600 member Church Mountain had a significant university campus outreach. On an average Sunday 250 students worshiped in the sanctuary. The church had a paid staff person to work with these students. This was a critically important and effective ministry. If the Church Mountain called a new pastor, a key focus must be to locate a pastor who would share, support and encourage this ministry. One could easily say these kids don’t help build the church with their money or attendance.  They stay a year or two, four if they are lucky, and then move on. Why should a church invest in them rather than investing in those who will be long term? The obvious answer to me was that it gave a marvelous opportunity to mold and nurture these young people who would scatter across the country and world as servants of the Lord. A potential senior pastor who didn’t share in the excitement and commitment to this vision would be a poor fit, regardless of how well they preached.

Finding the right fit between church and pastor is challenging. As a church tackles these hard issues, the person whom the Lord wants for you will emerge.

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