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14 Mistakes Search Committees Make

I’ve work with a number of pastor and staff search teams as they vet possible candidates for their open positions. I’ve also spent a lot of time listening to candidates talk about their varied experiences in the process. Here are several mistakes I’ve seen search teams make:

  1. Including the wrong members on the committee. Just because a person is viewed as a leader doesn’t necessarily make him or her a good search team member. Members ought to be godly prayerful Christians, good team members, and trustworthy believers.
  2. Praying too little. I’ve seen some committees that prayed a lot when their work started, a little during the actual search process, and a lot more once they’d narrowed their search to one person. Significant prayer is essential during the entire process.
  3. Not checking accuracy of the resume. You’d hope that all Christian candidates have only truth on their resume, but that’s not always the case.
  4. Not doing background and credit checks. Again, I wish neither of these reviews was necessary, but we live in a fallen world.
  5. Not asking theological questions. I’m amazed by the number of candidates I know who are asked only 1-2 (or zero) questions about what they believe. A general, “Do you believe the Bible?” is not sufficient.
  6. Asking theological questions too late in the process. When the search committee doesn’t ask these questions until strong relationships have begun to develop, it’s too easy to let debatable responses pass.
  7. Not checking references. I admit that few people include negative references on their resume, but you can still learn about a candidate from others.
  8. Rushing the process. In my experience, it’s taking longer and longer to find pastors and staff members. The longer it takes, the likelier it is that the committee will want to settle. That’s dangerous.
  9. Not being honest with the candidate. Most churches are not as healthy as search teams seem to think they are. Withholding significant information in the search process will only breed frustration later.
  10. Spending too little time with the candidate. Sometimes this issue is the result of an overall faulty process, but the more time the search team spends with the candidate, the better.
  11. Failing to keep the church informed. The work of the committee is to be confidential, but the committee should still keep the congregation in the loop. At a minimum, they can then pray more pointedly.
  12. Failing to keep the candidates informed. Even if the committee decides not to pursue a particular candidate, they still owe the candidate a response. Leaving people hanging is unkind.  
  13. Overreacting to the previous leader. Too often, a church responds to one negative leader by next calling the exact opposite type of leader. That option is not always the best solution. 
  14. Assuming the only possibilities are people who’ve submitted a resume. God might be working in someone whose resume is not yet available. Committees that don’t consider asking someone whose name has not been submitted might miss an opportunity.

This article originally appeared at ChuckLawless.com

    About the Author

  • Chuck Lawless