Pastoral selectionPastoral selection

Pastor Sam was hired with great enthusiasm. He was personable, had great references, and was ordained. Everyone liked him. Yet as the months wore on, that enthusiasm waned. The expected progress wasn’t happening. This was a church in need of new direction, increased outward focus, and more than a little conflict resolution. Pastor Sam, on the other hand, was strong in shepherding skills and leading pre-existing, established ministries. It wasn’t the right fit.

Had the search committee defined expectations for the role, skills that would be required, and specific qualities needed in a candidate, Sam might never have applied for the position. Had the search committed done thorough behavioral interviews of the candidates, they would have discovered that Sam was not a good fit for this particular role.

He had many great qualities, but no history of dealing effectively with conflict in any contexts—business, school, or ministry. He was an effective maintainer, but had no history of taking organizations in new directions. When he was asked about these areas in the interviews, he gave great theoretical answers. But without a proven track record, it was impossible to know if someone has the needed skills.

This hiring problem could have been avoided by taking the time to assess the church’s current ministry needs and opportunities. Each congregation in the process of hiring a pastor or staff member should try to get a clear picture of themselves and their history and development and then ask the question, “What is the core contribution that’s needed right now from this particular ministry role?”

For example, one church was hiring a youth pastor. Their last youth pastor was charismatic and relational and started the youth group from scratch by doing it all herself. She was great a rallying the kids, and that was fine for the season the church was in at the time. But now the youth group, as well as the rest of the church, has grown. What’s needed now is a youth pastor who can equip leaders, do the structural work of creating systems, and involve parents and other adult volunteers. It’s a different role now than it was then because the needs have changed.

So before you start assessing candidates for a staff role, first assess what core strengths are needed in that role for this next season of ministry. What are the current strengths? Current weaknesses? Current opportunities? Current needs? In some cases, taking a Natural Church Development (NCD) survey can be helpful to assessing where the congregation currently is.

Reflection questions:

1. Who has previously been in this ministry role? What strengths did they have?
2. How has the ministry changed over time?
3. What core strengths are needed now?