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The congregation search committee

By: 16 June 2013 No Comment
Steve Ellison


Churches sometimes do not have a very realistic view of themselves. Often this becomes very evident when they begin to search for a pastor. It happens all the time, but it is out in the open during the pastor search process. Surveys are completed by the congregation in which individual members create a long list of qualities a pastor ought to have and things a pastor ought to do.

Because each member has a different set of desires, the list for the prospective pastor becomes very long.  So long, that no one person could meet all of the requirements. The church will select a new pastor because they believe that they have found such a person when in reality that is highly unlikely. Soon it will become evident and murmuring will begin (see the book of Numbers).

It is easy for church members to get an overinflated view of their church because they will be flooded with resumes. This gives them the idea that their church must be the most desirable of all churches, when often the reality is that there are simply a very large number of pastors who are looking for any way out of the situation they are currently in. Often the pastor who has submitted a resume to your church only did it because he has fallen victim to unrealistic expectations at his current church.

I think that it is a good idea for a church which is seeking a pastor to fill out a pastoral profile survey. Really it would be a good idea any time. It should accomplish at least two things. First, it will provide some guidance to the search committee. More importantly, I hope that it will serve as a wakeup call to the entire congregation that the list of expectations could very easily and unintentionally grow to the point that no one person could meet all of them. I also hope that this reminder would temper expectations not only during the search process but also throughout the pastor’s entire tenure.

This also should help church members realize that any time any leader, including a pastor, makes a decision about what direction to go, how to get there, allocating time (including his), allocating resources, etc., etc. he will make some people happy and some people unhappy. It is not possible to make decisions that will make everyone happy.

In addition to the pastoral profile survey, I think a church ought to also fill out a “congregational profile survey.” I suggest a blank piece of paper for each church member who will write a dozen qualities that a prospective pastor could reasonably expect that a church member ought to have or things that a church member ought to do. I would ask the individual church members to write down what qualities of church members would be attractive to a prospective pastor. I am not speaking of finances or facilities or location, but rather personal qualities of the individual members, i.e. the same sort of things found on the pastoral profile surveys. I also suggest that a few more should be added from the perspective of the pastor’s wife and children. Often we have unrealistic expectations of them as well.

Thoughtfully and prayerfully completing both the pastoral profile and the congregational profile should help us all have more reasonable expectations of each other. Often we become disgruntled because of expectations that could never be met by any human being. I don’t meet yours and you don’t meet mine. Christ is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end.  No man ever is.

About: Steve Ellison:
Pastor Steve Ellison is Camp Administrator at Ouachita Baptist Assembly near Mena and can be reached at Special thanks to the Mena Star for sending Pastor Ellison's columns to First Arkansas News.

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