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Staff Search

Setting Up Your Church Staff Search Committee

Finding your next church staff member is a huge task. And an important one. But how do you make such an important decision in your church?

Search Committee

Finding your next church staff member is a huge task. And an important one.


Finding your next church staff member is a huge task. And an important one. The person you choose will be leading your church and ministry areas in the future. They will pastor you and your family. They will be responsible for mobilizing volunteers and creating excitement around the mission. In many ways, your next hire will also impact the spiritual lives of many people that don't even know Jesus yet. This is a big deal.


But how do you make such an important decision in your church?


Enter the search committee. Or the search team. Whatever you call it, having a team of people involved in this hiring decision is important. A unified team, representative of people in your congregation, can help ensure you find someone that will be a healthy, long-term fit for your church!


How do we do 'search teams' well? In this video, I share best practices on setting up your search committee or team.


You'll learn:

- Who should be on your team (and who shouldn't).

- How to achieve clarity on the work of your search committee.

- How many people you should have on your search team.


Watch the conversation / Read the transcript


You can also watch more about search committees: Everyone Hates Search Committees! 


As always, we are here for you, and we're praying for churches and teams all over the United States! If you want to have a conversation about hiring new staff members for your church or setting up your church's search committee, you can schedule a time here. 




Full Transcript

Hey y’all, it’s Matt Steen, Co-Founder of Chemistry Staffing. A little while ago I read a book called Search. It’s a novel. It’s by Michelle Huneven. It was a fascinating book. It was passed onto me by a friend of mine who knows what I do. It was a book about a search committee at a unitarian, universalist church in California. Basically, it was a handbook on how not to do a search. It was the ups and downs of this search team. It could have been based on a true story. I’m not sure. It had some recipes interspersed throughout which were tasty. But what I found as I was reading through this, was not only was the lack of theology kind of cringe-worthy. But more than anything else, it really played out how search teams get in trouble when they are doing a search for the next senior pastor or next youth pastor or whatever. And it got me thinking, I don’t remember taking a class in seminary or Bible college on how to do a search committee. I don’t remember sitting in class - and maybe I fell asleep that day. Maybe I was sick. I don’t know. But I don’t remember being taught how to do that. We all kind of go through it and figure this is how we need to do a search. What I started to realize is none of us really have a real understanding of what that looks like. So what I thought I would do is take some time and over the next few weeks put together a series of videos on how we do search teams well. How do we do this in a way that doesn’t come back to eat our lunch? This can be tricky. This is a heavy responsibility. This is the burden that we need to feel. We are bringing in somebody that is going to be our pastor. We say a lot around here, hiring a pastor is way different than hiring a plumber. Right? If it’s a plumber, we don’t care what their theology is. If it’s a plumber, all we care about is, can they fix our pipes, and can we use our toilet without it exploding? We don’t care what their relationship is like with their wife and family. We don’t care what they do in their spare time. But with a pastor, there’s a spiritual weight there. We are asking somebody to come in and be a spiritual authority, to teach us, to shepherd us, to discipline us on occasion. So the search process is so much different than looking for somebody in the corporate world. What I’d like to do if we can is just over the next few weeks, talk a little bit about practical things about what it looks like to create a search team and have a search team do their job well. Things like, how big should a search team be? Who should be on it? What expectations should we have? What functions does a search team exist to fulfill, and what does the time investment look like? Where do search teams get in trouble? 


So I think that’s the easiest place to jump off right now. As we set this up, where we see search teams get in trouble - we work with churches that are staff-led in their search process. We work with churches that have a search team. We work with both. And honestly, there’s no real preference because your church’s polity determines whether you have a search team or if it is staff-led. But what we’ve found is that there are some ways where churches can get into trouble as they set this up. Typically what ends up happening is that people are brought onto a search team that has an agenda. Now, that agenda may be good, may be bad. But they’re coming in with an agenda, and they’re only going to accept candidates that fill in the blank. They’re only going to bring candidates in that are reformed. They’re only going to accept candidates that are egalitarian. They are only going to accept a candidate that is under the age of 16. Whatever their agenda is, they are bringing in that agenda, and that agenda is going to trump what the Holy Spirit does in the middle of their search team. So one of the ways that a search team gets into trouble is that it brings in members of the team that are bringing in agendas that are more important than anything else. 


Another thing that will get a church into trouble is just a lack of clarity around a handful of things. A lack of clarity around the job description. What is it that we expect our pastor to do? What are the priority areas? Are they supposed to be more of a shepherd and a chaplain, or are they supposed to be more of a hardcore leader? Are they supposed to bring vision? Are they supposed to execute a vision based on what the board brings? Are they supposed to be sitting in the office doing sermons all week? Are we expecting them do spend 40 hours a week doing visitation? What is the job description? What is it that you are expecting this person to do? There needs to be absolute clarity amongst your team in order to do the search process right. The second thing in clarity, and this is shocking in the church world. But clarity around theology. One of the things that we’re seeing culturally is with the rise of podcasts and the ability to watch sermons from amazing communicators from across the country, we start to get a little confused on our theology. It’s not uncommon for somebody to listen to a podcast from John MacArthur and be going to a Pentecostal church. It’s not uncommon for somebody to be going to a secessionist church and be listening to Bill Johnson. There are so many different voices out there. And when things are pushed out into the mainstream, it’s not uncommon for people to get a little bit confused about what our church believes. Absolute clarity on who we are. Are we a reformed church? Are we Armenian? Are we dispensationalist? Are we egalitarian or complementarian? What are those close-fisted issues that we have as a church, and what hills do we die on theologically? There is not a good or bad answer to any of those. But the only bad answer is to not have clarity on that. One of the things that happen in the church world is we use the same words to mean very different things. We may say we want somebody “Spirit-led” and that sounds great. But that means something very different to Bethel than it does to, I don’t know, John MacArthur’s church. And so clarity on where we are theologically and the ability to make sure that everyone on our team is in lockstep on what our close-fisted issues are and what are the open-handed issues. 


Another place where lack of clarity gets us into trouble is what are the expectations on this team? Is this team choosing the pastor? Is this team recommending to the board who a pastor is, and then the board does a series of interviews and recommends them to the church for final approval? What is your process? What is the expectation of your team, and what are you expecting them to do? What’s very similar is just a time commitment on this. What we’re finding post-Covid, searches can run 12-18 months and be significant, a really long amount of time. The work that goes into actually doing a search is pretty significant. It’s not uncommon for people to spend 30-45 minutes per resume that comes in, in order to make sure that we’re finding the right candidates and we’re spending the time with the right candidates. So making sure that we understand the time commitment that is being asked of search team members. If that’s not clear up front and if that’s a bad estimate - if we estimate that it’s only going to be an hour or so a month, you’re going to lose people and you’re going to need to reset. I would expect a decent search team when they’re in full swing, you’re putting in an extra 10, 15, maybe 20-30 hours per month on this. Because this is a big deal. It’s a lot of work, and it needs to be a lot of work. And it needs to be a big deal. It needs to be a significant spiritual weight because this is important. 


The last thing that I see churches getting into trouble on is just the size of their search committee and who they invite onto it. The people that we bring on, if we have too many people, it’s like herding cats, especially during busy times of the year. We’ll talk a little bit about who to target and what size of search team you want to look for. What you don’t want to be doing is having to continually postpone meetings because you don’t have the majority of your people. You also want to make sure that the people that you invite have the maturity to agree even when their preferences aren’t met. We’ll talk a little bit more about that as we go along. 


Those are the big areas that we see churches getting in trouble with. Inviting people with agendas. The lack of clarity around job descriptions, around theological close-fisted issues for your church. The lack of clarity around expectations of what’s going on with the search team and also expectations of the amount of time you’re going to need to spend on this. And then the last big piece where churches get in trouble is just the size and the makeup of that search team. We’ll talk more about each of those in future videos, but that’s a good start. If there’s anything that we can do to help you think through who should be on your search team or who shouldn’t be on your search team, there’s a link below. We’d love to be able to have a conversation with you and see how we can serve. 



Matt Steen

Matt Steen

Matt has served the local church for over two decades as a youth pastor, church planter, and executive pastor. Originally from Baltimore, Matt currently lives in Orlando, with his wife Theresa, and has a B.S. in Youth Ministry from Nyack College and an M.Div. and MBA from Baylor University. Certified as an Urban Church Planter Coach by Redeemer City to City and as a StratOp facilitator by the Paterson Center, Matt has made a career of helping churches thrive through intentionality, clarity, and creating healthy cultures. He is convinced that a healthy church is led by a healthy team with great chemistry, and loves partnering with Chemistry’s churches to do great things for the Kingdom.

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