3 Costly Mistakes of Pastor Search Committees


Pastor search committees have an immense responsibility in finding who God is calling as their church’s next pastor. It’s a sacred process that can feel daunting, especially when replacing a beloved or long-tenured pastor.

Regardless of your church’s polity, chances are you have a group of people within your church that carry the weight of the pastor search process. Depending on your denomination and polity, you might call it a pastor search committee, pastor search team, or pastor nominating committee.

This group of people is charged with many tasks and responsibilities throughout the pastor search process from writing the pastor’s job description to interviewing potential candidates.

Most people on a pastor search committee have hired people in their careers, but not many have helped hire a pastor before. Ministry is much different from the corporate world, so it’s key that pastor search committees understand these differences and are intentional throughout the pastor search process to find the right person to lead their church.

Here are three key mistakes we see pastor search committees make at the beginning of the pastor search process.

1. They don’t know who should be on the pastor search committee.

Before you begin your pastor search process, it’s vital to know who should be on the pastor search committee. For churches that do not have a process in place for forming the pastor search committee, it can be a stressful process.

Search committees often struggle with questions including:

  • How many people should be on the search committee?
  • Which ministries should be represented on the committee?
  • Which age groups should be represented on the committee?
  • Should the committee be nominated or appointed?
  • What involvement should each member of the search committee have?

Beyond these questions, it can also feel difficult to discern the difference between people who are driven to join the committee for a personal agenda versus those who have the best interest of the church in mind and are prayerfully discerning the Lord’s plan for the church.

Many churches have a system in place for the pastor search committee formation process, but if not, Chapter 4 of Search: The Pastoral Search Committee Handbook will walk you through forming your pastor search committee.

2. There is confusion about what type of pastor the church needs.

There’s no such thing as a perfect pastor, because pastors are human after all. So how are we supposed to evaluate pastoral attributes in a person?

As William Vanderbloemen says in chapter 8 of Search called Figuring Out Who’s A Match, “The classic understanding of the facets of Christ’s work is that He was Prophet, Priest, and King. While we know that we can’t hire Jesus, I’ve found that assessing pastoral candidates in these three facets is incredibly helpful. A good pastor should reflect competencies in all three of these key areas.”

So because we can’t hire Jesus, our pastoral candidates are going to be stronger in some areas over others. It’s important for your pastor search committee to be on the same page about which characteristics are most important in your next pastor.

If you and your search committee haven’t realigned on necessary traits for a new pastor since the COVID-19 pandemic, you might want to revisit the topic. Social distancing put every church online and created a huge surge of online interactions. If your church does a lot of online initiatives, it’ll be important to hire someone with technical proficiency. Maybe your community outreach or missions look different after the pandemic and you need to outline new traits or skills that align with how your church operates in this new season.

3. Lack Of Alignment Starting The Search Process

One way to get a basic understanding of what the congregation is looking for in its next pastor is to do a congregational survey. When we help our clients conduct congregational or church leadership surveys, we use Google Forms to send it electronically. It’s a great way to see where the majority of the church stands on the pastor search process and what characteristics they feel would be best for the church in the next pastor.

Before you start your pastor search process, ensure that your committee is aligned regarding who you are looking for. This will reduce tension and frustration throughout the search process as you prayerfully discern who God is calling to your church.

The pastor search process can feel overwhelming, especially in the beginning. But if you have the right people on your search committee and have alignment on the characteristics you’re looking for in your next pastor, your committee will have a great start in laying the foundation to an effective pastor search process.

Our team would be honored to help guide your committee throughout the pastor search process. If you’re currently searching for your church’s next pastor, contact us to find out how our team can help you find who God is calling to your church.