“Our pastor recently resigned. He served our church for twenty-five years. We need to elect a pastor search committee; but it’s been so long since we had to have a search committee we don’t know how to elect a committee. Can you help?”
I have been asked this question many times over the last few years. Some churches have a detailed process in their church constitution and bylaws. Others just say the church will elect a search committee.
First, the church should determine who will be responsible for the nominating and election process. If the constitution and bylaws does not spell this out clearly, the church needs to make this decision before the nominating process begins.
In many churches the deacons will take this responsibility. Some churches use the regular nominating committee. Who has the responsibility is not as important as the fact that the church determines in advance who will be responsible.
When the church determines who will serve as the responsible group for the committee election process, then the following suggestions provide guidance for the group.
1. Determine the date for nominating committee members. About a month is needed to inform the church of the process, to communicate the qualifications for committee members and to help the church understand the importance of the nomination process.
2. Make a decision concerning the number to serve on the committee. If the constitution and bylaws does not specify the number, the responsible group needs to make this decision. The committee should not have a large number of members. A committee of five to nine members will be sufficient for most churches. Remember that this group will need to travel some and a large number of people make it hard to coordinate a trip. Also, you need members to attend all meetings; and this becomes very difficult the larger the committee becomes.
3. Set the qualifications for committee members. Each church’s qualifications may have some differences; but most churches will want to include the following qualifications:
- Church member
- 18 years of age or older
- Regular in attendance
- Regular contributor
- Spiritually mature
A husband and wife should not serve on the committee in most cases. If both are nominated, the one receiving the most votes will be asked to serve. Of course, staff members or their spouses would not serve on the committee. After the qualifications are established, publish the qualifications in various ways to the congregation two or three weeks in advance of the date for nominating committee members.
4. Ask someone to preach a message on the importance of the search committee. The interim pastor, the associational missionary or a convention employee could help the church at this point.
5. Nominate the persons to serve on the committee. On the date set for the nominations, each church member may nominate the number of people equal to the number who will serve on the search committee.
6. Tally the nominations. The responsible group will count the nominations made by the church members. Those receiving the highest number of votes should be considered first. If a person does not meet the established qualifications, the responsible group will ask the next person with the highest numbers of votes to serve.
7. Seek a commitment from each nominee to serve on the committee. The responsible group will contact each nominee and get a commitment to serve. If a person declines the invitation to serve on the committee, the next person with the highest number of votes will be asked to serve assuming he/she meets the qualifications.
8. Ask the church to affirm the committee. Since the membership nominated the committee members, there is no need to elect the committee. Ask the church to affirm the members that have been elected and agreed to serve.
9. Have a dedication time for the search committee. After all members are nominated, enlisted and affirmed, the church can have a special service of dedication for the committee.
Following these suggestions will not guarantee that the work of the search committee will be successful; but it does guarantee that the church has a voice in who serves on the committee. After all, that’s what most church members want.