Pulpit Committee Training /Coaching

Pulpit Committee Training – Why Business Model Search Procedures Are Not Suited To Finding A New Pastor.

Calling the “right” pastor is important for any church

Calling the “right” pastor for a smaller church is especially important since there is no other staff available to provide leadership and equip ministry for the congregation.

In a smaller church, each person has more direct influence in the choice of a new pastor as well as affecting the success or failure of that pastor than would an individual member in a large church.

Even in a larger church, the same principles and responsibilities for the work of a Pulpit Nominating Committee should be considered.

A Pulpit Committee should develop a number of documents and/or surveys in order to effectively carry out its work.  Examples of these are:

1.     A Church Profile – to be used to describe the church to prospects

2.     A Pastor Profile – to be used to compare a prospect’s gifts and experience  with the needs of the church

In order to develop these two profiles, it is important that the committee gather important data from and about the congregation.  Metokos Ministries recommends the use of several Survey Research Instruments (see the section of the website that gives more information about how these are developed).

a.   A Core Values Inventory – determining what the Core Values of the church are to be certain a prospect fits into those Core Values

b.   An Evaluation of Current Ministries – determining if there are areas of the church ministry and structure that should be considered for change with the arrival of a new pastor, in order to be certain these are areas in which he can lead the church.

c. A Readiness for Change Inventory – an analysis of the readiness for change in the congregation, as well as to determine obstacles to change.

Metokos Ministries recommends that a Session make a decision PRIOR TO CALLING A CONGREGATIONAL MEETING to elect a Pulpit Committee.  We do this because we believe it is crucial that, even before they decide on a committee, the congregation receive training in an informal seminar as to what is involved in the process.

Therefore we strongly recommend that the Session meet with a representative of Metokos Ministries (either in person or in a conference call) to go over the steps in the program and whether it would be of value for the church to use this approach.

The two most significant things that make Metokos Ministries different from other training/coaching sources are the professionally developed Survey Research Documents (see that separate section) and teaching what we call the ‘Rolling Stream’ method of dealing with prospects rather than the more normally used, business model of a ”Candidate Pool”.

The ”Candidate Pool” is the business model of setting a cutoff date for applications, reviewing the large pool of applications to cut down to a list of possibles, cutting that list down to the top 2 or 3 and interviewing them, and then picking the best choice.  This results in what many pastors call the ”beauty contest” model, where the search ends up focusing on ”style points”; and comparing man against man – rather than what we believe is the Biblical model of developing a clear profile of what is needed in a new pastor and comparing candidates against that profile, one by one.

The rolling stream method of processing prospects for a pulpit committee has a number of significant values.

First, and most importantly, it allows the committee to compare prospects to a carefully constructed, detailed profile of the needs of the church and avoids the ”beauty contest.”

Next, it forces the Pulpit Committee to do the hard work of compiling a profile using as many forms of input as possible.  This is where the professional survey research instruments kick in.  They help to determine both an Evaluation of Current Ministries of the church as well as Core Values of the church that will be non-negotiables for any prospect to understand.

Then, the process through which each prospect will be taken (a Rolling Stream if you will) must be approved.  A sample of such a process can be seen here.

Then, since the first prospect to complete each step (we call them ”locks”) in the stream becomes the committee’s candidate to present to the congregation, there is a very high probability that the committee will be unanimous, rather than some having to settle for the majority’s candidate.  The committee never has to ”start all over”: if the first pool does not produce a candidate.  There is always a continuous input of names put into the start of the stream.

Also, prospects will be more apt to agree to go through this process.  Mostly they prefer this format to the standard pool approach as it gives them continuing information as to where they stand with the committee and, if they are not a good fit, they will know much more quickly so they may move on to other possibilities.

There are several possible negatives of the process which must be considered as well.

It usually takes a month or more to gather the data needed for a profile, so the congregation must be kept aware of this necessity and counseled not to become anxious that the process is moving too slowly.

Also it is crucial that everyone is aware of the natural impulse to compare men to men rather than sticking to the order of the process.  So many people have done searches at their workplace or, in some cases, in previous pastoral searches, and they just naturally assume this comparison provides the best results.  It is our experience that in many cases the end results of the candidate pool process end either in settling for the best available or having to start over.

And prior to having prospective members stand for election to the committee, they should be made aware that – in this process – committee members are asked to do more hands-on work in the process than the typical pool process.  (This is balanced by the fact that each and every member has a significant input into the final decision.)

Again, we recommend any churches interested in following this approach visit our Contact Page.

Also, since I work in this field with some regularity, a number of men searching for calls contact me for help with placement.   Plus, as a retired Navy Chaplain, I have strong ties with the Chaplain Community and frequently have Chaplain candidates looking for two year calls (especially handy for those churches needing a long interim to get back on their feet) or have recently retired Chaplains who are looking to get back into local church ministry.