Pastor Search Blog

What's Going Wrong with Your Pastor Search?

Author: Malcolm Schaad

Over the past six years, I have successfully partnered with many churches in their pastor search processes. While some churches plan from the outset to work with a consultant, others turn to professional help only after encountering months of fruitless searching or dead ends.

When is it appropriate to use a search partner? Not every church requires an outside guide. Some manage their pastor searches efficiently and professionally with great success. However, others face the frustration of unsuccessful searches or, potentially worse, a poor hiring decision.

Here are a few reasons why your Pastor Search process might be struggling:

Outdated Processes: The traditional method of sifting through stacks of resumes and listening to countless sermons can be incredibly inefficient. Often, this approach results in reviewing unqualified candidates, leading to a burnt-out search team. As a search consultant, I focus on actively seeking the right leader rather than passively collecting resumes. Experienced recruiters employ effective systems to screen and pre-qualify candidates, allowing your team to concentrate on the best fits.

Ineffective Search Teams: The most productive search teams are formed based on competency not just representation. While it's common for churches to assign committee members to these teams, individuals with hiring, HR, or leadership experience add significant value. An experienced consultant can help structure your team to be well rounded and to avoid common pitfalls like lack of consensus or conflicting objectives.

Limited Denominational Support: As many churches move towards being nondenominational or independent, they lack denominational support. In fact, these days denominations often face their own shortages of available candidates. A skilled search consultant has invested in building relationships across large networks, tapping into a pool of potential candidates well-suited to your church’s specific needs and culture. They appropriate their time and expertise toward surfacing the right candidates.

Too Much Focus on the Previous Pastor: It's common for search teams to fall into one of two traps when replacing a previous pastor. Some teams seek to replicate their former leader, especially if they were a founding or particularly beloved pastor. However, this approach often leads to disappointment due to unfair comparisons—each pastor brings their own unique qualities and strengths. Rather than seeking a clone, it's crucial to develop a robust leadership profile that attracts quality candidates who are right for your church's current and future needs.

Conversely, some teams react by seeking a pastor who is the complete opposite of their previous leader. For example, replacing a highly driven, charismatic pastor with someone more collaborative and laid-back. This reactive approach can overlook the true needs of the church. Instead, focus on crafting a well-rounded list of qualities in your leadership profile that aligns with your church's long-term goals and assess candidates against this profile.

Unrealistic Expectations: Remember, there is only one Jesus, and he's already serving your church. Often, pastoral job descriptions are overly ambitious, extending to four pages of expectations and responsibilities. While the role of a pastor is undeniably crucial, imposing an unrealistic set of expectations can inadvertently lead to overlooking qualified candidates. This overburdening often stems from the pressure to select the 'perfect' leader. Take time to review your job description objectively, ensuring it is realistic and aligns with the actual capabilities and qualities essential for a pastor to succeed and thrive in your church's environment.

Faulty Objections to Hiring Consultants: Some churches hesitate to hire search consultants, fearing they may outsource the spiritual discernment process. Others point to the cost as prohibitive. First, a consultant doesn’t replace the Holy Spirit’s role in discernment but supports the church by handling much of the logistical workload while providing best practices. Prayer and discernment are still necessary to the process. As for cost, consider that a wrong hire or a years-long process can be far more expensive in terms of lost time, declining attendance, and low morale. A consultant can streamline your search, saving time and surfacing excellent candidates for less than the cost of a part-time staffer for six months.

The Best of Both Worlds: The most effective searches combine the experience and expertise of a consultant with the personal touch and history of your search team. This approach ensures a balanced process, yielding candidates of both competence and character.

Increasingly, churches are recognizing the benefits of partnering with Pastor Search Firms or consultants. In fact, about half of the recent Lead Pastor positions listed on were sponsored by consultants, pointing to a trend towards professional partnerships in pastoral searches.

Blue Search exists to provide cost-effective Pastor Search services to churches, offering both advocacy and guidance throughout the transition process. 

We welcome you to schedule a no-obligation discovery call to explore our Pastor Search Blueprint and see how we can assist your church. Regardless of where you are in your search process, Blue Search can enhance and strengthen your Pastor Search. Our commitment is to partner with you, guiding and advocating for your church every step of the way!  Schedule a call here