Pastoral Transitions

The following PDF and comments are provided by Pastor Roger Hayden, Cambridge Bible Church.

[DOWNLOAD PDF: Pastoral Transitions]

(Considerations & Questions)
Initially, we must recognize the purpose and scope of this material. I’m well aware there are
numerous, more detailed undertakings concerning the material suggested by the heading.
The purpose of this material, however, is to provide some very direct perspective regarding
items which should be of primary concern for any fellowship in pastoral transition (or for the
candidating pastors). I’ve included questions and perspective which, in my experience,
relate to real issues within the local church. The scope of the material encompasses the
practical much more than the theoretical.
We should also recognize that the particulars involved in the makeup of each church will
often determine the responses to issues noted in this paper. Further, some of the items
included may not apply, may not be viewed as important, or may be handled through
another area of the process. Take what you find helpful, change when it seems wise and do
all with the desire to honor God.
Roger Hayden
Pastor, Cambridge Bible Church
NICE Field Director, Inland Northwest
There are various terms used for this group such as “pastoral search committee,” “pulpit
search committee” and so on (with “board” sometimes substituted for “committee”). In this
material I will refer to this group as the “search committee.” It is not the intent of this
paper to address this committee’s makeup (you should consult the Constitution and By-
Laws of your church as a starting point). The following items, however, directly affect the
purpose and scope of the search committee and therefore are included:
1) The search committee must agree on what it’s looking for before ever considering a
specific candidate at all! If the Committee is not agreed in philosophy and focus,
then discussion is in order before proceeding. It is suggested that you either come to
agreement on your approach as a committee or change the members of the committee!
2) Prayer and cooperative biblical discernment are the keys for a process that will
honor God. I suggest several sessions of 1-2 hours of prayer time prior to actually
sitting down at the table and dealing with specific issues. Establish God as the key
participant in your hearts and thoughts before dealing with any succeeding phase.
3) The chairman for the committee should be the contact point, liaison and
spokesman for the committee. Open and regular communication within the committee
and to the congregation is imperative. It is the chairman’s responsibility to correlate all
surveys, questionnaires and interview worksheets.
4) If the role of the committee includes “pulpit supply” during the time the church is
without a pastor, be careful that anyone involved in this supply is NOT automatically
assumed a candidate (especially by the congregation at large) simply because they are
speaking. A specific announcement stating the speaker’s being or not being a candidate
should be made on each occasion.
5) The level of authority granted to the committee must be clarified. Can the committee
schedule a candidate at its discretion or does the ruling board need to be involved at
some level? (The ruling board may or may not be the same as the pulpit committee). Is
the committee expected to “recommend” a candidate? If so, is the recommendation to
the board or to the congregation?
6) The methodology of the committee needs to be understood by the congregation.
I recommend the timely assessment of each possible candidate as the Lord brings them
to the committee for consideration. I am not a fan of collecting a number of résumés,
then “winnowing out the field” and, finally, asking the “top pick” to candidate. This is
corporate American’s process for CEO selection. Remember that prayer and faith in
God’s sovereign provision, certainly to be coupled with the committee’s responsibility for
discernment and wisdom, should be the spearhead for the process!
7) It is seriously suggested that the committee consider and come to a clearly understood
working agreement on all items they deem important before going to the “let’s bring
someone to speak as a candidate” phase.
8) The Committee Assessment, Pastoral Priorities, and Questions for Every Candidate
worksheets (see downloads) have room for each member to write down their
thoughts — which I highly recommend to avoid misunderstandings later on! In fact, I’d
require written responses from each committee member if I were part of the process.
This is the very real, and extremely relevant, issue of the somewhat intangible matter of
compatibility between pastor and congregation (and, more narrowly, the existing
For instance, what is the makeup, or “flavor” of the church? By this is meant (for example):
Is the fellowship focused and intense or laid back and roll-with-the-flow? And to
what degree of each? Does it have an urban, suburban, rural or backwoods flavor?
One consideration is the obvious one of not matching a three-piece-suit guy with a
backwoods congregation! But that much is usually pretty obvious. However, problems can
arise when the candidate wants to be back-woodsie and states his ability to do so! Can he
or can’t he? Want to take a chance? Further, how about his wife and kids? The candidate
may have the desire, and perhaps even be convinced that he can adapt, but the family
members may hate it!
Compatibility can be a tough item to pin down — but I feel it’s often a main reason that
churches struggle regarding pastoral leadership. There has to be a “fit” far beyond doctrinal
agreement and type of church government. Think about it beforehand rather than regret
extending the pastoral call at a later time.
I am somewhat dubious of the value of references. While they are sometimes helpful, I’d
caution that you’ll never get an unfavorable reference from a candidates list. Termed “the
buddy system,” the candidate will always list those from whom he expects favorable
responses. The following are suggested:
1) Check every reference, preferably with personal contact (NOT merely mail or e-mail).
2) Ask every referenced person for two additional references — and be sure to contact
them! (You will get a more honest and much more complete picture with this “second
level” than with the references on the résumé!).
3) When considering someone with a denominational background, be aware that
denominations often project a “this guy is perfect because I’m recommending him to
you” concept. The contact person (a director, regional head, area placement specialist,
etc.) seldom has specific understanding regarding the needs of your fellowship. Nor will
he have to live with the pastoral selection — but you will!
4) If at all possible, have at least one member of the pulpit committee visit the
candidate’s previous ministry (or currently active one if applicable). I’d recommend
an incognito visit. Such examination is not meant to deceive but to wisely discern the
candidate’s ministry skills in situ and is best done at the level of minimum intrusion. It is
recommended to personally speak with as many people as possible to get
comprehensive input.