Calling a new pastor? The Nazarene Manual says a district superintendent’s responsibility is “to consult with the church board concerning the nomination of an elder or a licensed minister to pastor a local church” (Paragraph 208.9 Nazarene Manual 2005-2009). Sounds simple enough. As a district superintendent myself, I wish it were just that easy.
In actuality, the most critically important decision any church board will ever make is the nomination of a pastor. The future health of every congregation is directly tied to pastoral leadership. There are hundreds of considerations screaming for our attention in the selection process. Let’s put our jogging shoes on and run through the most critical.
1. All successful pastoral searches are accomplished on our knees. Organize the entire church family into various, regularly scheduled prayer times during the pastoral search process.
2. Where are we? Honestly, objectively, painfully ascertain where you are as a church. Ask the questions: “Who are we? What are the demographics in our area? Who should we be reaching? What type of leader do we need to help us reach our community?
3. On life support? 20-25 percent of Protestant congregations are just barely surviving. Many are nearing the end of their life cycle. I actually meet with board members who simply want the church to survive long enough to bury them. Is this pastoral transition creating an opportunity for the church to die with dignity, to enter into a restart agreement with the district, or to invite a healthier church to take ownership as a satellite?
4. Mirror, mirror on the wall? Does your constituency accurately reflect the color, nationality, and ethnicity of your neighborhood? Are you multi-cultural, multicongregational, or multi-lingual? What type of leader do you need to help you reach out to your neighbors?
5. Drop the business model. You are not hiring a new pastor, rather, you are searching for God’s chosen leader for His church. Huge difference; proceed accordingly.
6. Show me! Once you have decided who you are, the search process is critical. I once heard church growth consultant Kennon Callahan say to a group of district superintendents, “Listen closely to pastoral candidates. Some will say, ‘Show me my church, show me my pulpit, show me my parsonage.’ He continued, “You want the candidate who says, ‘Show me my people.’”
7. Past performance dictates future results. Ask your district superintendent for background statistics on the candidate you are considering. Just because someone in the church knows a pastor in another state doesn’t mean he or she is the right choice for you. If a pastor has shown little or no growth in the past three churches, it has been my experience that past performance will dictate future results.
8. Team player. We are honored to be Nazarenes—a church that is making a profound difference around the world. Your church will be stronger and healthier if you only consider candidates who have a track record as a team player supporting district and global budgets and ministries.
9. Discipleship. Keep looking until you find a Great Commission pastor. Let’s be honest, overlooking our responsibility to make disciples is the greatest sin of omission in the church. A pastor committed to disciplemaking is your only hope for the future.
10. Let’s get personal. You need to ask, you must ask, about your pastor’s personal relationship with Christ. What is he or she reading? How much time does he or she spend in prayer and personal Bible reading? Have him or her describe a typical day. Ask him or her recite some of his or her favorite verses from memory.
Once in place, welcome and support them. Satan is working overtime to destroy your pastor. Pray for your new pastor, love him or her, send notes, boost him or her in public, offer encouraging words, organize prayer meetings specifically for your pastor and family. Their future success is directly connected to your individual support.
by Larry D. Dennis
Central Florida District Superintendent