Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Five Things a Pastor Search Team Should Never Do.

For more information on these principles,
check out my book "Side-Stepping Landmines."

The following is an introduction to the principles in my book Side-Stepping Landlines, which can be ordered here. 

Over the past ten years, largely due to serving as interim pastor in 7 different churches, I've consulted with numerous teams who were charged by their churches to find a staff member.  In most cases, the team was seeking a Senior or Lead Pastor, and in most of those cases, the team felt inadequate for the task.

In some parts of the country, that feeling of inadequacy would be no surprise, but in the Mid-Atlantic, where 30% of the population has a Master's Degree or higher, and where 87% of the work-force is white-collar and high-income, its truly shocking.  Many of the people I've talked with on pastor-search teams in this area have themselves been part of conducting executive searchers for Fortune 500 companies, yet they still felt unprepared when it came to serving their church by recommending the next pastor.  I've discovered that, regardless of the demographic makeup of the church, those chosen to search for a pastor always feel a bit uncomfortable.  And I've seen too many search teams make some pretty big mistakes--over and over again.

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.

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.

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.  Effective search teams master the process.  They are not mastered by it. 

3. They ask hypothetical questions when they interview.  Anyone with average intelligence 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.  Asking the right questions, and translating a candidate's answers appropriately will give the team a realistic picture of the person in front of them.  

4. They assume the important stuff, and as a result, fail to ask the hard questions.  While most pastors are high caliber when it comes to character, many pastors have fallen morally, and many others possess character flaws that will not serve the church well.   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. An effective search team asks hard, and sometimes very personal, 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.  Effective search teams don't hire the "best" man.  They hire the "right" one.

Search teams interested in learning more about these principles can find them in my book "Side-Stepping Landmines."  

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