Pastor Tim has moved on, leaving his senior pastor position open. A search committee is formed to find a new pastor, and they get together for a meeting. The consensus is that Pastor Tim was not a good fit, so the goal is to get someone who is “not like Pastor Tim.” They check with their denomination and get a stack of resumes.

Looking through all the paperwork doesn’t yield much insight. How should they evaluate these resumes? Where should they start? Someone suggests checking references, which seems to be a good idea. Yet when the committee reconvenes, they find that—according to the references—everybody is wonderful.

The search committee members stare at one another across the table. They feel the need to make a quick decision… the position is vacant. Yet how to decide? Maybe they should hire someone they know? When was the last time they hired someone? It’s been so infrequent that no one really remembers how to go about it.

There’s got to be a better way.

More and more as we have baby boomers retiring, I’m dealing with a lot more cases of pastoral selection. Many groups are woefully unprepared for this process because they haven’t looked at it from a holistic, systemic perspective.

I’ve recently been teaming with Dr. Charles Ridley to create a helpful process for moving forward with pastoral selection. Here’s a basic outline of the steps:

1. Identify the broad strokes of what to look for in candidates.
2. Assess your current ministry situation. What’s the core contribution that’s needed here and now from this particular role?
3. Identify the specific competencies and microskills needed for a candidate to perform effectively in this particular role.
4. Conduct an initial search and screening process to get some good, viable candidates.
5. Engage each serious candidate in a thorough behavioral interview to see if they have the skills to do what’s needed.

We’ll look at each of these points in greater depth throughout the rest of this blog series, but together they form the basic outline of a process to follow.

Questions for reflection:

1. What has been your experience in hiring pastors and ministerial staff?
2. What challenges have you faced?
3. What’s worked well?