The goal of any minister search is to find a great minister. I don’t think there is any church that consciously says to itself, “We’re just going to settle for a mediocre minister and see how things work out.” Subconsciously, however, some churches do just that. In this post, we are going to take you through the process of how that happens and how to make sure that doesn’t happen in your congregation.
Minister searches usually begin with a combination of excitement and anxiety. The church knows to start out that there is at least a small possibility that not many people will apply, but at the beginning, the awareness of that possibility may lead the church to work harder to find a good minister. After several months of few applications, however, the anxiety begins to take control. The church begins to feel the effects of the ministry gap. Both the members and elders of the congregation begin to feel a sense of desperation.
Many congregations, weary of searching for a minister, just settle for the first person that comes their way, regardless of whether they are a good fit for the congregation. This represents a complete departure from the original goal of the minister search. Whereas at the beginning the goal was to find a good minister, that goal is reduced to just finding a minister. This is most likely the biggest reason why turnover rates stay high for ministers. The church likes the new minister at first, but after getting to know him a bit, they begin to rethink their decision.
Think of it this way. When a church hires a minister, it is quite literally entering into a relationship with that person. You probably know someone in your own life who enters into a relationship with anyone who shows them interest because either they are not sure what kind of person they are looking for or they are just tired of looking for someone. How often do those relationships work out? Whether it is a relationship between two individuals or between a church and a minister, this dynamic works the same way. Why would a person, or a church, settle for someone who doesn’t meet their needs?
A church must keep the original intent of the minister search at the forefront of its mind at all times. Regardless of how difficult it is to find them or how long it takes, congregations must be driven by their desire to find their right fits. Anxiety leads to desperation. Instead of being anxious that you won’t be able to find your right fit quickly, why not just prepare for it to take time initially? Don’t be afraid to hire a long-term interim minister if necessary. Don Viar offers some good advice on hiring interim ministers in our blog post entitled “Sometimes an Interim Is Better Than a Hire.”
Don’t just settle for the first minister that comes your way. Once your congregation knows what kind of minister it needs, don’t stop at anything to find that person. It may take more time to find them, but if a person is the right fit for your ministry, your congregation will likely get many good years of service from them.