Church Staffing

5 Crucial Checkpoints BEFORE Starting a Lead Pastor Search


By: Context Staffing

For one reason or another, the Lead Pastor has announced that he is moving on from your church, and you are left with the question, “What happens now?”  This is absolutely the most critical time in the life of a local church. You are facing an uncertain future while feeling the extra strain on the staff and the increased need for unity without a key leader.

We have seen the devastating effects that a poorly executed search can have on a church. The wrong hire can have a decades-long impact on a church’s ministry, so before setting out on this enormous task of finding a new Lead Pastor, here are 5 crucial questions that every church should ask themselves:

 1. Who do we have?

Church staff teams need to be complementary. Before choosing a new leader, first assess existing staff, pastors, and high-level leaders to build a more holistic portrait of leadership at your church.

For instance, consider:

  • Do we have a lot of people-oriented, shepherding leaders but few organizers and strategists?
  • Are we full of boots on the ground, get stuff done people but few people with real vision?

Remember, you are not just hiring a pastor, you are building a team. Think about the team first and then add the leader.

2. Who do we need?

Every church is different and faces a unique set of challenges. In order to find the right Pastor, a church has to understand the task that the leader will face. To accomplish this, every church should take the time to build a specific profile of the leader they need. This begins with an honest assessment of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that the church faces. Has attendance been dwindling for years because of poor systems of connection? Is the Sunday service outdated and in need of re-imagining? Does the pulpit need a stronger communicator?

These questions and more like them will help you to build a profile that rightly articulates what kind of leader they need. Do not rush this step as clarity here is foundational to a successful pastoral search.

3. How are we going to do this?

A pastoral search is a long and laborious process. If you go it alone, expect to spend 6-12 months and hundreds of person-hours promoting the position, gathering applications, sifting through candidates’ resumes, listening to sermons, and conducting interviews. Who is going to do that work?

Additionally, here are just a few questions to think through:

  • Will you build a search team? What kinds of people should be on the team? Do you have people in your church with significant hiring experience? Has anyone at your church ever hired a pastor before?
  • How will your team vet and interview candidates? What is your process? Who is leading the process? Who makes the final decision?

It is imperative that you count the cost before beginning any pastoral search.

4. How will you find candidates?

In order to find a new pastor, you must first find candidates. What is your candidate pool? How wide and deep is that pool? How will people find out about your position? More importantly, how will the right candidate find out about your position? Will you recruit or just hope that someone is looking for a new role?

Casting a wide net while maintaining a focus on the kind of candidates you are looking for is key.

5. Who leads now?

Prepare for the next 6-12 months. While the lead pastor search is ongoing, the church must also continue to do ministry. Who is going to care for the team and the church in the interim period? Who is going to preach? Who will make which decisions?

Your church has never needed leadership more than it does today, who is going to lead?

These 5 key questions are just a starting point in preparing for a Lead Pastor search. Church leadership is essential for the health, life, and mission of the church. Don’t go into this important season without prayerful planning and all the help you need.