How do church search committees search for pastors?

Thom Rainer suggests four different levels at play with most church search committees when they are looking for a new senior pastor.  Rainer also points out that most search committees do have clear priorities, but that these priorities are very seldom clearly articulated.

Here are the levels:

Level 1: Biblical, Theological, and Preaching

  • Does he meet our theological and biblical beliefs?
  • How does he respond to theological “hot button” issues?
  • Does his practice match his beliefs?
  • Is he an effective preacher?
  • Would his preaching be well received by our church and community?
  • Does he have several podcast sermons for ready listening?

Level 2: Background Information

  • Does a legal background check reveal any issues of which we weren’t aware?
  • Does a credit check reveal any financial concerns of which we should be aware?
  • What has he communicated in the social media via Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other channels?
  • What do his references say about him?
  • What do others who aren’t references say about him?

Level 3: Leadership and Relational Skills

  • Is he an effective leader?
  • How would his leadership style fit at our church?
  • How does he handle conflict?
  • Does he have healthy relational skills?
  • Does he lead his family well?

Level 4: Previous and Current Church Experience

  • Did he lead his church to healthy growth?
  • Was he a missional leader in the church’s community?
  • Does his past experience indicate he understands culture and contexts well?
  • What were his primary emphases at previous and current churches?
  • Did he relate to other church staff well?

Another thought:  Search committees know that they will never find the ‘perfect’ pastor, but they are much more likely to accept a level 4 flaw than a level 1 flaw.


Read more of Dr. Rainer’s thoughts here…


  • Tim February 18, 2013 Reply

    Some of these questions, in my opinion, actually highlight the underlying problems found in local churches:

    1. What qualifies as effective? What results are to be measured? It seems to me that Paul had to encourage Timothy to keep preaching the Word as to the naked eye it seemed to not be effective.

    2.Level 4 seems to have CEO written all over it. The introduction of secular business concepts into the expectations of the Pastorate have created UnBiblical practices and pressures.

    3. Much of these ideas also reveal many lines of UnBiblical thinking within the model church.
    A. Measuring themselves by the morning church attendance, leading to thoughts like “we are a small church, something must be wrong” or “why are we not growing, what program can we find to fix this.”

    B. The church being consumed by the running of programs and the finances of the church being allocated to things that might get the next customer, I mean, soul, in the door. (In this sense the Pastor becomes no more then one of the programs in the church, making him replaceable and open to UnBiblical criticism).

  • Matt Walker February 18, 2013 Reply

    And what about ‘godliness?’ And how in the world would you know without actually knowing the man? And if you don’t know this, then how could you honestly recommend him for a church? Isn’t this the inherent flaw in searching for a pastor outside of the church itself? Was this ever done in the NT?

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