Screening Applicants for a Pastoral Position

  • 18 July 2017
  • Randy Wollf

Holding documentsYou’ve put the word out about your need for a pastor and now the resumes have started rolling in. Perhaps panic has begun to set in as you realize the daunting challenge of choosing the right one. How do you discern which candidates to seriously consider based on their resumes? Once you have a shortlist of preferred candidates, how do you decide which one to call to meet the rest of the church?

In my blog called Tips for Successful Pastoral Searches, I suggest several ways that search committees can set up a search process to succeed. In this blog, I will focus on one part of the process—the actual screening of candidates—and make recommendations around three levels of screening.

First Level – Résumés

For this level, I would encourage you to develop a list of key qualifications for the position based on the position description. Then, assign a value to each one (you may choose to weigh some qualifications more heavily than others). For example, you might assign a value of 5 points to having a seminary degree and 10 points to previous related pastoral experience.

As résumés come in, it is relatively easy to measure the candidate against what the group has already decided are the key metrics. Depending on the number of applications, each member of the search committee can assess each applicant (and then average the scores) or the committee chair can assign résumés to individual committee members (it’s helpful to have at least two people assess each applicant to minimize individual biases).

Sometimes, it’s easy for search committee members to get distracted by an outstanding or underwhelming part of a résumé. Using this approach helps committee members to objectively evaluate all the important pieces, producing a more holistic appraisal of a candidate’s suitability. 

Second Level – Assessments

Tips For Successful Pastoral Searches

  • 18 March 2016
  • Randy Wollf

Looking for a new pastor can be a daunting challenge. In this blog, I will offer several tips for successful pastoral searches (this content is also available in a training video that you can find here).

Pray much

One cannot underestimate the incredible importance of prayer in a pastoral search process. The search committee needs to devote a significant portion of their meeting time to prayer (a perfunctory prayer at the start of each meeting is simply not adequate). In addition, the church leadership must mobilize the congregation to pray and even challenge some to form a prayer team around the search.

Understand that your primary role is to discern God’s leading

In a pastoral search process, we’re not looking for the best candidate who applies; we’re looking for the right candidate (click to Tweet). This is why prayer is so vitally important. Don’t worry if an outstanding candidate doesn’t fit or decides to move in a different direction. Receiving “no’s” from the Lord is part of discerning His leading.

Line up your ducks 

Make sure that you prepare all the necessary materials (e.g. position packet, application form) and have processes and timelines in place to help you stay on track. This will also help potential candidates develop an understanding of the values and expectations of your church (remember that you might be providing candidates with their first impressions of your church).  

Search primarily along relational lines

Encourage people in the church to refer solid candidates. When possible, look within your congregation first. If you can hire from within, it can make the transition for the candidate (and his/her family) and the church so much easier.

Touch base with influential connectors

Who are the connectors in your denomination or network? Talk to them about your search. They may be able to provide some quality leads. In addition, advertise in places that your ideal candidate would likely visit.

Develop a scorecard for rating applicants