Common pitfalls in the pastor search process

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There are a number of ways the search process can go in the ditch:

Bad etiquette and ethics

Almost every pastor can tell a horror story about being contacted by a pastor search committee and then having said committee become as elusive as Bigfoot. No! Be courteous! Be professional! My friend Pete Wall says, “You’re not just looking at a candidate; he’s also looking at you!”

Dog and pony show

It is a very bad practice to have a continuous flow of candidates in the church’s pulpit until the committee has thoroughly vetted the candidate and is ready to present him “in view of a call.” Like Annora Mallard says, “This turns the whole church into a pulpit committee.”

You may get a good outcome from a bad process, but that is only because God is kind and gracious. The church has tasked the committee/team with doing the hard work of finding a new pastor.

Ignoring red flags

In the course of investigating a candidate there may be problems that predict a pastor will be a bad fit for your church. Pay close attention to red flags like denominational incompatibility, repeated short tenures, and insufficient information on a resume. Your church is probably not the exception to some rule.

Inadequate investigation of candidate

Many bad ministry hires could have been avoided with a more thorough, deliberate process of looking into the ministry candidate’s background. Everybody puts their buddies on their resume as references. Committees have to go beyond the references the candidate has made available. Committees should ask references for references. Criminal background investigations should be considered mandatory, but even that is really only the tip of the iceberg.

Call the director of missions in the areas the candidate has previously served. Don’t get bitten by something avoidable. Do the hard work of being thorough.


God may drop a candidate into your church from the sky, but more than likely you will have to work really hard and turn over a few stones to find the right person. This is particularly true of some bi-vocational churches.

Most churches in these days will need a competent, strategic leader to help them with challenges that are facing nearly all congregations in a post-Christian society. Those kinds of leaders don’t grow on trees.

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