In the last post, we took up the idea that churches using search committees to find pastors generally greatly extend the time of the process, without greatly enhancing the effect of the time spent. The problem seems to lie in the idea that a group of untrained members of the congregation can do a thorough and professional job at something they have never done before and will (most likely) never do again. I wonder what I would do if someone came to me and asked me to gather with some others of similar education and background, and locate a dog with WKC Champion bloodlines all without ever getting the input of a vet or canine breeding specialist? Or what if they came to us and asked us to find a diamond of a certain quality and size, without giving us access to a professional jeweler or even jeweler's tools?
This is the position in which many churches place their congregants as they ask them to gather and search for a new pastor, the RIGHT pastor for the congregation, all without having access to any professional help. Yes, they can ask questions of various friends in other churches, and they can even access their denominational professionals, if they belong to a denomination. But the committee is essentially on its own, even if it belongs to a denomination.
The problem with going to a denominational professional is that he or she serves the entire denomination, and therefore has precious little leeway to recommend one pastoral candidate over another. They can send a committee information on various candidates, but they cannot really favor one over the other. Also, denominational professionals often do not have the time to get to know a local church as deeply as is needed to help in finding a pastor. This is not meant to be detrimental to the denominational folks, it is just a fact of life that money is always short for these sorts of endeavors.
So what is a church to do if it wants to conduct a thorough, professional and objective search with the goal of finding the best pastor for the job in an appropriate length of time? The answer can only be to seek out professional help from a group dedicated to helping churches find the best candidates available, vetting these candidates thoroughly, and then making a recommendation of the top 2-3 candidates to the search committee.
This is different from using a traditional head-hunting firm for two reasons. First, a head-hunting firm takes responsibility of actually filling the position with a candidate of their own choosing, leaving the church to wait on the decision of people not involved in their congregation. Second, head-hunting firms generally charge anywhere from 35-50% of the first year's salary, or in pastor-speak, salary and housing, of the candidate they place. This is a very high barrier for most churches to leap in terms of available funds. Also, placing a pastor in a church pulpit or ministry is the job of the church itself, not an outside firm. Having professional help in vetting the field of candidates and coming up with the 2-3 best ones, leaves the church in the position of still choosing its own pastor or assistant/associate pastor while at the same time receiving the best advice available.
There is a new idea out there now that can help with a lot of these issues while keeping the cost very low for churches. More on that over the next few days. Between now and then, please remain in prayer for any church you know that is currently looking for a pastor. They need our prayers and any help we can give. Consider even sending them a link to the last two posts at this site in case some of the ideas might be helpful to them.