Search committees do make mistakes. This article will examine five common search committee mistakes. A pastor search committee can make more than these five mistakes, but being aware of these potential mistakes can make the search process more effective and productive. Hopefully, your committee will avoid making these and other mistakes.
Mistake No. 1: Lack of Training. Many churches elect a search committee and wish them good luck. No training is provided. Big mistake! A pastor search committee can call the state convention or their associational missionary to provide training. The Leadership & Worship Team of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention has a booklet, The Search Is On: Finding and Calling a Pastor, that will be very helpful in training a search committee.
Mistake No. 2: Getting in a Hurry. When a committee gets in a hurry, the tendency is to fail at a very important task--doing its homework. Several aspects of homework include the following:
- Developing a church profile. The search committee would do well to prepare a written narrative about the church’s organizations, numerical history, financial status, property description, major trends facing the congregation, etc. This profile can be shared with prospective candidates.
- Developing a pastor profile. The search committee might consider allowing the church to complete a form indicating the kind of pastor they believe would be most effective for their church. A pastor profile also helps the search committee as it reads and studies resumes.
- Learning to read resumes. Training by someone who knows how to do this part of the process will help tremendously.
Mistake No. 3: Failing to Be Truthful about the Church. I have heard many pastors make this statement: “The search committee was not truthful with me. They didn’t tell me about the problems in the church.” The committee, in its effort to make a good impression on a prospective pastor, often fails to tell the candidate about issues or problems. The committee doesn’t intentionally tell lies about the church. The committee members just fail to tell the whole story. The truth is that most prospective candidates want to know the issues or problems the church has. They don’t want to be blind-sided by these problems when they arrive on the church field.
Mistake No. 4: Looking Only for a “Great Preacher.” Every church wants a great preacher; but there is more to pastoring than just being a great preacher. A pastor must know how to administer a church, lead a church, handle conflict, direct a staff, and much more. His people skills will be of utmost importance. A search committee needs to ask the right questions of prospective candidates in order to determine if they will make a great pastor/leader as well as a great preacher. Also, asking the right question of references will help the committee at this point.
Mistake No. 5: Not Communicating with the Congregation. The search committee needs to give regular updates to the congregation. Without this, you can cause frustration and some anger in the congregation. As a minimum, the search committee needs to report to the congregation once a month. The report should never discuss names of prospective pastors; but the chairman can share where the committee is in the process of the search. He/she can also share specific prayer requests with the congregation.
Jimmie Sheffield is the retired associate executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC). He currently serves as Executive Administrator and works with the Intentional Interim Program. Jimmie and his wife, Annette, live in North Little Rock.