Q&A with William Vanderbloemen on SEARCH: The Pastor Search Committee Handbook
In my role at Vanderbloemen, I get to work closely with many pastor search committees as they navigate the overwhelming process of finding their church's next pastor, which is why I'm excited about this new resource from William Vanderbloemen especially for pastor search committees.
Check out this Q&A with William about the new book, SEARCH: The Pastor Search Committee Handbook.
What inspired you to provide a handbook for pastor search committees?
Whenever I sit down with a pastor search committee, I ask, “How many of you have experience hiring a pastor?” Maybe one hand in the room goes up, but nearly every person on the search committee is a discerning volunteer with no church staffing experience. Some pastor search committee members have hired for their corporate jobs, but hiring for ministry is much different than hiring in the corporate world. They don’t know what they don’t know, and one of my favorite parts about helping churches find their staff is working with search committees. They feel the weight of their sacred responsibility and really want to navigate the overwhelming pastor search process well. However, they often don’t even know where to start.
So when B&H Publishing came to me and asked me to write a handbook – a field guide – for pastor search committees who are navigating the weighty process of discerning who God is calling as their next pastor, I was honored and excited to write it. It’s been a fun project to work on, and my prayer is that it will provide a common blueprint for pastor search committees.
What is the biggest challenge pastor search committees face?
They’re scared to death. There’s huge anxiety in the pastor search process. It doesn’t matter what your church polity is, whether you’re Anglican, Baptist, or non-denominational, it’s daunting to be in a group of people selected for the sacred task of making one of the most important decisions that the church will ever face, and hopefully one they won’t have to face for another decade or so.
This anxiety can cause committees to fight, feel directionless, choose the wrong person, or feel like no one is good enough. My prayer is that this book will be a resource to help calm their anxiety by providing a step-by-step manual, enabling them to focus on what they should be doing - praying and discerning who God is calling to be the next pastor of their church.
Chapter six of the book is titled “Know Your Church.” How can pastor search committees truly understand what their church needs in their next pastor?
One of the key questions a pastor search committee should spend time pondering is, “How does our church navigate change?” Think about the last time your church changed something in the building or in a ministry program. How did the congregation react? You want to reach for your ultimate redemptive potential as a church, but you don’t want to stretch it too much to where you break it apart. Know yourself as a church to ensure that doesn’t happen.
I’d also bring in an objective set of eyes to ask the pastor search committee strategic questions. Navigating change is one of the most difficult parts of the search process, and bringing in a third party who can objectively ask questions to help you shape the job description and candidate profile is a big help to pastor search committees.
I would encourage pastor search committees to buy SEARCH and read through it together, especially chapter six. Knowing yourself as a church is crucial to a smooth pastoral search process.
What about mistakes toward the end of the process? Many pastor search committees get down to one candidate, and then it doesn’t work out. What should committees be aware of before they get to those final steps in the process to avoid having to start the process over?
Begin with the end in mind. Stephen Covey says this, and it’s so true. Have a road map for your church. We have a suggested timeline in the appendix of the book to help pastor search committees. Having a plan and trying to follow it will help avoid frustration in the long run.
So many committees get frustrated at the end of the process and then jump at the first person that says yes. To avoid rushing into the wrong hire, have a road map at the beginning. The most expensive thing you can do for your church is hire the wrong person.