That's a dangerous combination!
During my eight years working with churches in central Maryland, I've had the opportunity to consult with numerous Search Committees who were seeking a shepherd for their church. All--and I do mean all--of these people meant well. But most were ill-prepared to do the job their congregations deserved.
This is not to say that the people serving on these teams were incompetent, or weren't sincere in their desire to serve. But most admitted that they had no idea how to effectively fulfill their responsibilities. Regrettably, most denominational material related to training Search Teams is also woefully inadequate, because to a large extent it doesn't deal with many of the crucial issues that are important for any Search Team to understand when seeking a pastor. Additionally, I've witnessed quite a few unprofessional and inept approaches to conducting searches at the denominational level as well, so that in some ways, asking for help on this issue from the denomination can sometimes be an exercise in the blind leading the blind!
That said, over the years, I've seen 5 common mistakes that Teams seeking a Pastor usually make. These are things a Search Team should never do, but almost always do. I'll list them here, and over the next couple of weeks deal with each one of them in more detail:
1. There is a fine line between communication and confidentiality, and Search Teams cross that line repeatedly. Most Search Teams understand that confidentiality is important, and they also get that the congregation needs to be kept "in the loop" on the search process. Unfortunately, clear guidelines are often missing on how to strike this balance, and the result is that many Search Teams say things they shouldn't, and keep to themselves things that need to be said! We will talk more about how to strike this balance more effectively.
2. They use people with their process rather than using the process to find the right people. In other words, too many Search Teams become slaves to a process, rather than using that process as the tool. The process becomes the end rather than the means, and this causes too many Team members to burn out, and too many good candidates to get burned! We will talk about how to master the search process, rather than be mastered by it.
3. They ask hypothetical questions when they interview. Any idiot with the IQ of an eggplant can answer a hypothetical question in a way that makes you think he is an expert on every subject! On this issue, many Search Team "handbooks" are no help either, as many of them are filled with questions that are philosophical and hypothetical, but never allow the Team to see for themselves what kind of man they have sitting in front of them. We will talk about how to ask the right kinds of questions, and how to translate a candidates' answers into an accurate picture of reality.
4. They assume the important stuff, and as a result, fail to ask the hard questions. Nearly 40% of pastors have had an extra-marital affair since the beginning of their ministry. 37% regularly struggle with pornography. More than 50% admitted that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way to make a living (Translation: They are in it for the money!) The most important questions are aimed right at issues like these, and they come right from the texts of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Unfortunately, many times these questions are never asked because a committee assumes that the title "Reverend" means they have a morally straight guy in front of them. We will talk about when, and how, to ask the hard questions of a candidate.
5. They don't consider contextual fit, and often hire the "best" candidate instead of the "right" candidate. The guy with the highest earned degree, the longest run of experience, or the best "track record" in ministry might be the "best" candidate in a stack of resumes, but that doesn't mean he is right for your church. We will talk about principles for calling the "right" man, not just the "best" man.
More elaboration is coming on each of these in the coming weeks!