The Kentucky Baptist Convention was created by churches, for churches, to help churches reach Kentucky and the world for Christ. One of the ways we help churches is by assisting them in times of pastor/staff transitions. A host of KBC staff members are equipped to train search committees and assist churches in various ways during interim periods, including giving them access to a large database of résumés. If you are a church seeking to fill a new ministry position or a minister seeking God’s direction for your next assignment, don’t hesitate to call on us and learn more about how we can assist you.
I’m often asked if I have any personal advice for search teams. Beyond stressing the need to bathe the entire process in prayer, thankfully, I usually point to a host of good resources available from the KBC. I also share some of the more helpful things I have learned from others and from having a part in several search processes over the past 30 years. Here are a few.
First, don’t overlook what have been termed “the three ’C’s.” They are character, calling and chemistry. Make sure the candidates being considered have strong character, give clear evidence of God’s call on their lives, and are the right fit for the church and/or leadership team.
Second, if red flags appear in the interview and investigation process, paint the wall red. Small issues in the interview process often become huge issues later. Good hiring requires search team members to be deeply discerning and brutally honest about what they observe, resisting the urge merely to be persuaded by an individual’s personal charisma or likeability.
Third, put little faith in references you don’t personally know. We can all find something good to say about a friend, and it’s easy enough to leave a long list of concerns unspoken. Moreover, the fear of litigation, especially from former employees, can leave most organizations hesitant to communicate anything—especially anything that could be perceived as negative—about a former employee.
Fourth, the most important question to ask every reference, especially if that reference is a former employer, is: “Would you hire this person at your church today if you had an open position?”
Fifth, closely observe the people skills of the candidate. Keep in mind that most ministry roles require working with and leading people. Regardless of how smart, gifted, educated, or theologically sound a person may be, if that person isn’t especially good at working with people, he or she likely will be a bad fit for local church ministry.
Lastly, you CANNOT be too thorough as you explore a candidate. Make no assumptions and leave no questions unasked nor unanswered.
Keeping these things in mind, being patient, and remaining sensitive to the leading of God’s Spirit, a search process can be richly rewarding and result in the kind of outcome for which the church is praying.
Paul Chitwood is the Executive Director-Treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.