How to Hire a Successful Lead Pastor

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How to Hire a Successful Lead Pastor

Hiring a lead pastor is a challenging task. Click through for a complete guide to hiring a lead pastor. We also share important do’s and don’ts for the hiring process.

A lead pastor wears many hats and is likely the first person people think about when your church is mentioned.

Since it’s a special position, hiring the right lead pastor is a challenge. Fortunately, we can help. Keep reading for a complete guide to hiring a lead pastor. We also share do’s and don’ts for choosing and appointing a lead pastor.

The Responsibilities of a Lead Pastor

The lead pastor’s core responsibility to the church is to equip members for ministry. Ephesians 4:11-13 says:

So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

Generally, the lead pastor’s main duties include the following:

  • Serving as the face of the church for the community.
  • Teaching frequently at weekend services.
  • Performing weddings, funerals, and other ceremonies involving church members.
  • Aligning church activities with its mission.
  • Taking care of the church’s staff and volunteers.
  • Raising funds for church activities.

A lead pastor may also perform a number of other duties, depending on the culture, structure, denomination, and tradition of the church.

Step-by-Step Guide to Hiring a Lead Pastor

There’s a fair bit of crossover between hiring a lead pastor and a business leader. In both cases, you need the right steps to find the right person.

Fortunately, you can do this in five steps. Here’s a guide to hiring the best lead pastor for your church:

1. Create a Job Posting

As we’ve covered before, a lead pastor has many responsibilities. That’s why it’s important to make a job posting that won’t scare possible candidates off.

You still need to detail what’s expected of the candidate as well as their responsibilities, but leave room for discussion. This way, they won’t be deterred and have a higher chance of applying.

Once you have a job posting, you can post it on church staffing platforms. You can also publish the job posting among church members, your church’s denominational network, and other channels.

2. Build a Pastoral Search Committee

There’s wisdom in counsel, as stated in Proverbs 19:20: “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.” 

A pastor search committee represents your congregation and ensures that it’s not just one person choosing the new lead pastor. This helps alleviate pressure and ensures an impartial decision when choosing a lead pastor.

Where do you get members for the pastoral committee? You can have church members nominate members. Afterward, hold a vote to determine which nominees are on the committee.

3. Review Resumes and Applications

Start reviewing candidate applications after your committee is formed. Examine the candidate’s key qualifications, like their educational background and church experience.

You shouldn’t stop there, though. If a candidate catches your eye, call their previous employers and churches for a background check. You can also watch the candidate’s past sermons to determine if they’re a good fit for your church.

We suggest shortlisting around ten candidates from all the applicants. These ten candidates can then proceed to interviews.

4. Interview the Candidate

You can dig up more details about your candidate during the interview process. One of the first things you should ask is, “What is your personal testimony?” You can learn a lot from a pastor candidate by listening to this story and how they articulate it.

You should also ask questions that gauge the candidate’s spiritual maturity. Determine whether they’re truly called to become a lead pastor in your church or they’re just looking for bigger salaries.

The main goal of the interview process isn’t just to determine whether the committee likes the candidate. Interviews also help you get a good feel for whether the candidate fits your church culture.

5. Choose the Candidate and Job Offering

Every church has its own way of finalizing the pastor hiring process. But, generally, candidates who pass multiple interview rounds will make a personal visit to the church.

You can organize a meet and greet between the lead pastor candidate and church members. Here, your church family can ask the pastor candidate questions, and you can see whether they’re a true cultural fit for your church. If most church members accept the candidate, you can give them a written offer to finalize the hiring process.

Mistakes to Avoid When Looking for a Lead Pastor

Choosing the right lead pastor means your church will be in good hands. Conversely, choosing the wrong one can bring problems to your church and potentially cause conflict between staff and members.

Here are the potential mistakes to avoid when recruiting a lead pastor:

Searching for a Lead Pastor Alone

Searching for a lead pastor shouldn’t be a one-man show. You’ll have a harder time choosing a lead pastor and getting them approved by your community if you do it alone.

A pastoral committee can advise each other on which lead pastor candidate to choose, true to what’s written in Proverbs 12:15: “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.”

Searching Too Quickly or Too Slowly

We understand wanting to take your time picking a lead pastor. It’s a big decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But going too fast is just as dangerous as going too slow.

Moving too fast with your lead pastor search means you might not vet candidates thoroughly before choosing. Conversely, moving too slowly might make great candidates tired of waiting. This leads to them taking offers from other places.

Don’t rush, but don’t go too slowly, either.

Listing Overly Unrealistic Expectations

A lead pastor wears many hats, so it’s normal to expect a lot out of them. However, unrealistic expectations may scare candidates off.

Instead of writing all the qualities you need from a lead pastor in the job posting, consider putting just some of them in. You can find out whether the candidate fits your requirements once you interview them.

Things to Do When Searching for a Lead Pastor

In addition to potential mistakes to avoid, here are some tips to follow when choosing your lead pastor:

Pray for Guidance

Praying for God’s guidance is one of the most important things you can do in your pastor search. Have your pastoral search committee pray alongside church members, asking for God’s guidance to lead you to the perfect lead pastor.

Appoint an Interim Pastor

If you’re hiring to replace a departing lead pastor, there’ll be a considerable gap in your church’s ranks. To fill this gap, you may need to choose an interim pastor. They can help shoulder the former lead pastor’s responsibilities while you look for a new one.

Your interim pastor can be a new hire, but you can also choose one from your existing clergy.

Understand Your Church

A church’s primary mission is to serve God and its community – that much is certain. However, every church has different ways to achieve those goals. Identify how your church worships, achieves its goals, and runs its day-to-day operations to learn what kind of lead pastor your church needs.

Consult Past Lead Pastors

Your church may have had previous lead pastors. One of the best ways to determine the key traits of a lead pastor is to ask someone who’s been there before.

Consider interviewing your previous lead pastors about what’s needed to excel at the job, then build your job description based on what they say. This way, you have an easier time finding somebody that fits your previous lead pastor’s shoes.

Closing Thoughts

Lead pastors are essential because they represent your church and hold many responsibilities. Unfortunately, that makes choosing a lead pastor more challenging than filling other positions in the church.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though. To learn more about hiring a great lead pastor, check out this YouTube video on hiring the right candidate.

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