Pastor Search Committee/ Calling a Pastor

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Eagle, Jun 13, 2010.

  1. Eagle

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    Hey all,

    My church is in the process of finding a Pastor, since the unexpected retirement of our former. I am very curious as to how the process is done - both in your churches today, and any insight as to how it has been done historically. It seems to me that a proper and practical way to do it would be for a committee to winnow, filter, or narrow down some candidates, for the church to then meet, hear from, vote on, and extend a call to.

    Has anyone experienced a search committee doing all of the above - and then extending a call to an unknown man that the church has not voted on or authorized a call being extended to?

    Thanks in advance for any input.
     
  2. sag38

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    Actually, they should narrow it down to one candidate and present him to the church for confirmation.
     
  3. Eagle

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    Actually, that is what we are doing. A lot of misinformation was going around -- mostly, I think, due to the 'secretive' manner in which this committee has conducted it's search. There is a lot to be said for transparency in business matters of the church.
     
  4. The Archangel

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    Eagle,

    Search committees are fairly new inventions. It used to be that a church would seek out a minister after much prayer and thought. If the Lord led them to someone and if that man was pastoring another church, both churches would talk and see where he would best be used. If it was at the church with the vacancy, he would go there. But, it would be the churches together that would enter a period of pray and seeking the Lord's direction on the matter.

    Today, we have clandestine trips of search committees, behind-closed-door negotiations, and surprised, pastorless congregations. I don't think this helps the church; I think it does great damage to the church. All too often, search committees are trying to channel their inner James Bond and this leads to surprise resignations and churches being left out in limbo.

    My advice?

    Does your church know of a person they'd want to be the pastor? If so, contact his current church (the leadership--deacons or elders--not the secretary) and discuss the possibility of calling him. But, do it openly and intentionally. Ask for permission to talk to currently-pastoring pastors. Don't engage in shepherd stealing.

    If you go the route of the search committee and soliciting resumes, do it openly. You might even consider placing the following question on a questionnaire: "Does your current church know that you are considering a position at our church?" If they answer no, they might surprise you 4 years down the road with a surprise resignation.

    Any way you go, always have the person preach (PLEASE more than one message). Have him preach for a couple of weeks and talk with the candidate thoroughly to assess his theology, his gifts, his "energy."

    Remember, since Baptist churches are Congregational in government, the congregation must be the ones to call a pastor. Don't deny them the opportunity to vote. Don't deny them the opportunity to be fully informed about the candidate.

    Blessings to you and your Church,

    The Archangel
     
    #4 The Archangel, Jun 13, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 13, 2010
  5. sag38

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    The work of the search committee is to be as transparent as possible. However, the church has given to them the task of seeking a God called candidate. This means that some of thier activities are hidden from the congregation. The committee is not to be unduly influenced by the church.
     
  6. gb93433

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    That practice involved prayer not just wanting a great preacher.
     
  7. Eagle

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    Tremendous Archangel, good insights...Thank-you.
     
  8. Joseph M. Smith

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    I've served several times as interim pastor, and am now serving as Interim Exec for a state convention, where I get involved with pastor searches. The principal sin that I see is a committee that works entirely in the dark and does not see fit to report its progress. Yes, it is best to narrow to a single candidate that the committee believes is the right one; but you will inevitably get the cry of "we want to see more people" if you have not kept the church informed all along the way ... not with names, but about the process.

    Oh, yes, by the way, lest someone think I am an armchair critic -- I was a resident pastor too!
     
  9. Jerome

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    I have experienced having a pastor foisted on a church's saints, and it did not turn out well.

    Exactly right.

    Read Acts 1:15ff and Acts 6.

    It wasn't a select committee, "Board of Apostles", executive session of "elders", District Superintendent, Archbishop, Head Deacon, etc. that acted.

    It was the assembled saints.
     
  10. Tom Butler

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    I have served on two pastor search committees. I agree with sag38 that the committee should not foster a competition among candidates. The church has charged it with doing the legwork, and needs to consider only one candidate at a time.

    Transparency is good, but some aspects of the search committee's job are better conducted outside the glare of public discussion.

    The committees I served on imposed on ourselves a burden so heavy that only God could lift it. We agreed that we would seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our task, and and trusted the HS to reveal his will to all of us. So we decided that we would not make a move unless all of were for it. This meant that one vote could stymie the will of the majority, but we believed that God would help us work through any problems.

    With each resume that arrived, we stayed in contact by phone, e-mail and snail mail with each one, informing them of our progress so they wouldn't be left hanging. I talked personally with every candidate. When we eliminated a prospect, he was informed immediatly.

    A committee would be wise to give periodic updates to the congregation.

    I'm not particularly concerned about surprise resignations by pastors. Happens all the time. But a month's notice would be appropriate. (Unless, of course, the congregation wishes he'd leave now.)

    The part I'm most uncomfortable with is when the committee hears the prospective pastor at his home church. Everybody can spot a pulpit committee. A neutral spot would be better.
     
  11. Tom Butler

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    To pick up where I left off, once the committee had heard the prospective pastor preach, conducted an extensive interview, discussed compensation, discussed the expectations of both the congregation and the candidate (leave nothing unresolved), then the committee will agree to recommend him to the church. That means inviting him to the church to preach, to meet with church leaders, to hold an open Q&A with the congregation. The committee makes it clear that by inviting him to the field, it means he is the committee's choice.

    Both the committee and the candidate must retain the flexibility to back away if something unexpected comes up. That's not likely if you've done your homework.

    When the committee makes its recommendation, it should also come with a compensation package, moving expenses, etc.

    The vote should be open, no secret ballot. If it is not unanimous, don't ask to make it so. The prospective pastor needs to know the vote so he can make an informed response to it.
     
  12. gb93433

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    I have been on both sides of that fence. One pastor search committee I was on was done very well. We spent a lot of time in prayer before we did anything. I found there was a lot of agreement among all of us. It was a church where the elders led most of the ministry and the pastor did the preaching and pastoral work that he could do better than anyone else. That church has been a great church for many years and has grown.

    I have been the prospective pastor and was asked a number of questions. After answering their questions I wondered how short sighted some could be and how lacking they were in terms of spiritual wisdom.
     
  13. Pastor Larry

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    Several significant problems I see with Archangel's advice that I want to comment on:

    Typically, the search committee is chosen by the church as representatives of the church body. It is unwise, not to mention unpractical, to involve a whole congregation in searching for a pastor. There is no way for a congregation to be sufficiently informed on who might be available and interested, and there is no way for the congregation to sort through dozens or hundreds of resumes.

    Not wise at all, for several reasons, chief of which is the simple fact that it creates uncertainty in both churches. It can ruin a pastor's current ministry if a church comes calling because it could undermine the church's confidence in her pastor's commitment. It creates insecurity because the congregation would be wondering if their pastor is ready to ditch them for a new congregation. If creates problems in the prospective church because people might get their hearts set on a man and then be turned down which leads to unfair expectations of the next pastor. It creates dissension over "what we could have had."

    Not sure what all you mean by "clandestine," but all in all, pastoral searches should be more confidential than open for a variety of reasons:

    1. If the church body as a whole considers numerous men, it creates division in the body and turns into a popularity contest. When a pastor comes, someone says, 'I was not in favor of this guy anyway, and I am not supporting him." Some people like A and others like B and some like neither and it becomes a fight.

    2. If interview and negotiations are carried in public, it creates insecurity in the current church of a pastor. As a pastor, were I being considered for another church, I would not want my congregation to know until I am convinced that the Lord is leading me elsewhere because it creates insecurity in the current church. It is much harder to lead if people think you are on your way out the door.

    3. If the church is set on a man who declines them, it can create resentment and discouragement among the body.

    4. It can create further problems in the church. If a church contacts another church looking for their pastor, those who do not like the pastor can use the occasion to further undermine his leadership.

    My advice is never ever, under any circumstances, do this. It's not about stealing shepherds. It's about respect for a man's congregation and his leadership in the congreagation. Ask the man himself if he is open, and carry on the interview process with him. Do not, under any circumstances, undermine his leadership in his congregation by contacting his church before assessing his interest and fitness for your congregation. Only when you are ready to invite the man to candidate should the church leadership be informed, and then they should be informed by the candidate.

    If they answer "yes," then you will probably have little confidence in his commitment to a congregation. You will know that he has communicated to his congregation that he is not interested in leading them for the long haul, and that is probably not a man you want leading your church.

    If a pastor is discontent and actively looking to leave where he is at, he should just leave. He should not do the church the injustice of telling them he is thinking about leaving and just hold on to the job as their pastor until he finds something new.

    These are very useful and helpful things in this post.
     
  14. Tom Butler

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    In this electronic age, it may no longer be necessary for a search committee to go to the prospect's church to hear him preach. A videotape or DVD of his preaching may be sufficient. Be aware, though, that he's going to send you his best sermon.

    The advantage is this method is that it eliminates the awkward moments when the search committee walks in and everybody knows what they're doing there. Years ago, the chairman of our search committee was met by a member of the prospect's church, who said, "you're a pulpit committee, aren't you?"

    "Yep," he'd reply, "and we've come to get your preacher." He'd grin, and the ice was broken.

    The other alternative, which our committee used once, was to hear the prospect at a church other than his own. A fellow pastor arranged for him to preach and we met him there.

    Travel distance can be a problem, but it can be overcome.
     
  15. Tom Butler

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    Our church was formed in 1891 and we have the business meeting minutes dating back to 1901. They are fairly detailed narratives and provide a real glimpse of cultural changes as well as ecclesiological changes.

    In the 1920s, one business meeting was called for the purpose of electing a pastor. Purely congregational. The floor was opened for nominations. Members would nominate various preachers, and then they'd vote. The one with the most votes was elected. (Incidentally, he may not have even known about it.) A committee was appointed to seek out the pastor-elect, tell him of his election, and get his response. Sometimes he would accept, sometimes he'd say no.

    If he refused the election, the process would start over.

    In the early part of the 20th century, there were no standing committees in our church. The first one showed up in the 1930s. If a task needed to be done, an ad hoc committee was appointed, then dissolved once the task was completed. It was almost purely congregational government.
     
  16. The Archangel

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    What gives you the impression that I am arguing for anything but a congregational Government?

    The Archangel
     
  17. The Archangel

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    With all due respect, Tom, the last 100 or so years is fairly recent when you consider 2000 odd years of church history. As such, search committees are fairly new inventions.

    In older times--I'm thinking the 1600's and the 1700's--churches were usually elder-led and when a pastoral vacancy came up, the elders would search for a pastor. Often, in a congregational church, the candidate would be voted on by the congregation.

    In one case I'm aware of, John Norton was called by The First Church Boston to be pastor, after the death of John Cotton. But, there was no advertisement or search committee. Both churches--his current pastorate and First Church Boston--entered into a period of prayer to see where Norton's gifts would best be used. Both congregations agreed it would be Boston, and so he went.

    But, it was a different and better day for pastors. All too often today, pastors have lost the idea of going to a church to spend a lifetime there. One of the reasons our churches are in big trouble is because the people have become as superficial as their pastors. Many pastors seek to go to a small church to get "experience" and then climb the corporate ladder to a bigger, more well-paying church. Things should not be this way.

    I would want to call a pastor who was willing to minister to the people of the church, their children, and their grandchildren, not a minister who was using a particular local congregation as a stepping stone and therefore not personally investing all of himself in that congregation.

    The Archangel
     
  18. The Archangel

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  19. Alcott

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    I have never served on a pulpit committee or search committee, but I have seen some awkward moments and tactics used by them. One time the church I was in was the meeting place for a committee and a potential pastor, and I thought then that it seemed I was watching a sales pitch that didn't concern me. The sermon, expectedly, was a basic rundown of the precher's "vision" and organizational ideas, with a light-hearted treatment of divisive issues. Once he said, "I've been asked before if I think a Christian can chew tobacco... well, I'll just say that maybe they have chewing tobacco in heaven, but you have to go outside to spit."

    And then about 10 years ago I had a friend on the pastor search committee who did reveal what was going on occasionally. There were several times the entire committee went to a church to hear someone, but they arrived and entered separately so no one would know they were a committee-- they hoped. If they weren't found out, maybe that did keep worries and rumors down in that particular church. But if anyone did happen to know or find out about them, things could be worse. I suppose it's not dishonest unless they were to answer peoples' questions by indicating they are visiting the church with consideration of joining in the future, or they make a misleading excuse-- i.e., "I'm just checking around and someone recommended I visit this church." But that's for the typical "Visiting with us today?-- looking for a 'church home?'" question that a few Baptists will always jump a person with. But if a member there was more cognizant and intrusive and directly asked if they are there for another purpose than just to attend the service [besides a search committe, Americans United sometimes has reps to see if a church is getting political, for example], then they have to affirm or deny it, while refusing to answer would be affirming it. I don't know if the answer is just to go in together, knowing they will be seen as a committee, or to get that meeting somewhere else, which may be difficult to arrange. While to see or hear a candidate by electronic means may take care of the potential furtiveness problem, I think I would still like to see first-hand how smooth the overall service goes and how he holds the attention of the congregation.
     
  20. Eagle

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    I hear what you are saying, Pastor Larry, however, many of the candidates that are filtered are in response to ads that, for instance, our church, ran in order to have a pool to choose from. These Pastors, were 'clandestinely' desiring to leave their flock, were they not - or else why send resumes? Does this then disqualify them from leading their flock - if in their heart they are ready to leave anyway - should they not just leave? This would seem to be the logical continuance in your stated position. Just curious as to how far we can carry some of these 'ideas.' Thanks for your input.
     

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