The Make-up of Your Search Team

[excerpt from The Pastoral Search Journey: A Guide to Finding Your Next Pastor]

The pastoral search team has a tremendously complex task - but one that can bring many rewards. Before discussing the search team membership, consider several important perspectives about the team. A search team is given the task of discovering the person God would have pastor their church. It could be said that your team needs individuals with a combination of both head smarts and heart feeling. For that reason, team members should rank high in four areas: spiritual sensitivity, ability to work well in a team setting, listening and communication skills, and an active role in the ministries of the church. While search team members will be at different levels in the four areas, they must all have an enthusiasm for their task.  It is this enthusiasm that will carry them forward through the long process ahead. 

The search team needs a strong leader to serve as chairperson. This person should be comfortable leading in a team setting, have gifts and skills in organizing, administration, encouragement, stating consensus, and be comfortable speaking to groups. Strong clerical support is also needed. The amount of paperwork generated by and tracked by a secretary can be overwhelming to an individual unfamiliar with handling agendas, minutes, letters, and phone calls, to multiple people--all at the same time. In choosing members for the team, the church board should decide on who they want to serve as chairperson and secretary, and approach these two individuals on a one-to-one basis. There may be occasions where the chairperson and secretary may share duties, and this approach may be useful where people have qualms about their ability or time to serve.

The Make-up of the Search Team

It is critical for the search team to be made up of a cross-section of the membership of the congregation. As you consider names, think who can represent the youth, the older members, the ministry teams, and importantly, the board. A good balance of gender and age is positive. You should not, however, compromise having qualified members who fit the four areas above simply to have all cross-sections represented.  There should be at least one member who is also on council. The team does not have to be large. Eight members is optimum. As you consider team size, remember the pros and cons of the different sizes.

With more than eight on a search team:

  • Pros: You may gain a larger cross-section of the congregation, the skills helpful to run an effective  search, and have more people to share in the tasks.
  • Cons: Discussions, conference calls, and decisions become more difficult, and the meetings will have  to be very structured and may last longer.

With eight or less on a search team:

  • Pros: Discussion, conference calls, and decisions can be better managed, meetings can be less  structured, and greater intimacy is possible.
  • Cons: More will have to be done by less people, there may be less of a cross-section of the  congregation represented, and some skills may be less available.

Preferably, the board selects the individuals asked to serve. Letters should be sent by the board to each person being asked to serve, explaining why they are being asked, and identifying their task.