Working remotely is being forced upon millions of people, and it's not all bad.
Many people in your congregation suddenly find themselves working from home, and it will be a big adjustment. In addition, thousands of parents are unsure about how they are supposed to do their job from home while being a parent at the same time. It’s a strange new world for a lot of people.
And you might be facing this challenge yourself.
Many churches are encouraging staff members to work from home. While there are some challenges, it’s a good thing.
Let’s talk about some ways to make it work for you.
There are so many tools and services that make it possible for a lot of people to work from home. Here are some of the most popular tools.
Slack – This is the #1 work messaging platform and it works great to stay in touch throughout the day.
Basecamp – This is a project management and communication tool. Many people like the “all in one” nature.
Microsoft Teams – Chat, file-sharing, video calling, plus the Office Suite built right in.
There are plenty of others: Asana, Trello, Monday.com, and the list goes on and on. The bottom line is there are tools and services to help you manage nearly every aspect of working remotely.
Experiment quickly with a few tools but go ahead and make a decision. A lot of tools will work for you and the sooner you start mastering some, the more effective you will be.
Psychology of Working From Home
The biggest challenges in working from home are not choosing the right tools but developing a new pattern. Many people in your church are struggling through this. You might be facing it, too.
Church Fuel began as a remote company and working from home is in our DNA. Here are some best practices we’ve learned first-hand along the way.
1. Set a schedule.
Even if you don’t have to be “in the office” at 9am, determine a schedule and stick to it. Work/home boundaries can be tough when it’s all the same thing so start with your schedule. Run your morning routine, get dressed, and go to work just like you’re working in an office.
2. Create a work space.
Whether you have a home office or find space for a desk in the corner of a room, create a space that’s dedicated to your work. Not only will this help you reinforce your routine, it will help others in your house understand when you’re at work and when you’re at home.
3. Get support and buy in from others in your home.
If you’re working from home and there are others in the house, you need to help them understand and support your work reality. You need boundaries so you can focus on work and not get distracted with laundry, entertainment or projects. But others need to understand and support your space, too.
4. Stay connected.
One of the toughest things for people leaving a traditional office environment to work from home is the feeling of isolation. This is a very real thing.
Remember, the people in your church who are affected by a change in work location are also struggling to stay connected with people. They are more isolated, which means they need connection to their church community even more.
Examples of Tools for Remote Work
Check out the insanely practical tools that churches use to manage ministry teams remotely. (What about you? Find and share mode ideas online at covid.church)
Our lives have changed rapidly, and with that so have our methods of living. But it’s not all for naught. We are forging new ground to go be the church outside of our own church walls. To bring the church to people, right where they are.
When the news about COVID-19 began influencing large gatherings, all churches scrambled to figure out what to do when they couldn’t gather in person on Sunday.
That realization quickly extended to other ministries too. We need to consider how we can continue not just our adults services, but also our students. And we need to create new opportunities for students to stay connected.
Students' lives have been significantly affected during this time – nearly every environment in their lives has been disrupted. School, friends, work, and church are all completely different than they were a few weeks ago. If this is tough for you as an adult, it is exponentially more difficult for a teenager.
To be honest, “adult” church is actually way ahead of kids/student ministry when it comes to live streaming. 99.9% of youth ministries haven’t started live streaming until this week whereas adults have been doing it for years.
Kids/youth ministry online is new. There’s some people like Tj McConahay who have been killing it on social media (TJ specifically is great with TikTok), but those are more like bonus material. Doing kids/youth ministry 100% remote is new territory.
But we’ll be keeping our eyes open and paying attention to what people are doing in the Stuff You Can Use Facebook groups, and sharing all the new ideas that will be popping up in the coming weeks.
Examples of Live Streaming in Student Ministry
Check out the insanely practical ways that churches are using technology for student ministry.
Most of the livestreaming advice that applies to church services will also apply to your student ministry. But there are a few student-specific pointers that will help you serve students better.
Josh McLemore, Student Pastor at Douglas First UMC in Douglas, Georgia and one of the trailers of the Grow Curriculum, put together a simple guide for going live with Zoom, one of the tools we’re recommending to all churches during this time.
Other live streaming options for students include…
Staying Connected to Students
If your student ministry has small groups, it’s not a huge jump to shift them online meeting using a tool like Zoom.
It’s one of the more popular video call solutions and has been helping people work remotely for years. But it’s also a great tool for online small groups.
Right now, they are extending their free trial, essentially removing their 40-minute limit. One of the cool features of Zoom is breakout rooms. You could have a large group teaching time and then split students up into their respective small groups.
Relationships, more than programming, have always been the driving force behind student ministry. As great as it is to provide an online service or digital gathering, it might be more important to stay connected throughout the week. This just might be one place where student ministry is ahead of adult ministry.
Send students personalized text messages. Let them know that you have not forgotten them and that even when they feel alone, they are never alone.
Call your students! Yes, call them. It seems weird, and it may be awkward, but give them a good old fashioned phone call.
Use Google Hangouts, Skype, or Zoom to video call several students at once. Most of these services are free and can have 10+ people on the call. Why not play a game with them? Pull out the classic games and conversation starters like Two Truths and A Lie, Never Have I Ever, or Good Thing, Bad Thing.
GroupMe is a great way to stay connected to students outside of events, even during times when you can gather. Many students already use this for school, sports, or church.
Cameron Pedicord and Jonathan McKee have some great ideas for how you can help students grow spiritually and stay connected during this time.
Here are some good ones:
Post a short devotional video every day. Make it fun. Give a tour of your house. Show them that you actually have toilet paper.
Jump on Zoom or some other meeting app and take a small group through one of our free YouTube discussions (yes, these each have small group questions and scripture) or free Music Discussions (yes, Billie Eilish, Bieber, Mercy Me, For King & Country… they all have scripture and small group questions, and they’re all free).
Challenge your students to read the Bible in a month. Send a group text with comments about what you read.
Have your musically inclined students spend time writing new worship songs. Post them to YouTube and share them with the group.
Video Game Tournament. Ask your students… they’ll tell you how.
Short Story or Book writing competition. Seriously. They have nothing else to do. How much Netflix can one student actually watch?
Binge watch a Netflix, Disney+, Hulu show and discuss. Did you know we have a Bible discussion posted for every single episode of The Walking Dead and Stranger Things?
Coffee Time: Everyone brews a cup of coffee at home and hangs out virtually. Video conference and share your secret coffee recipe.
More than ever, students need caring adults to lean in and facilitate connections. Students already live their lives digitally, but this is a new opportunity for the church, and a new opportunity for your ministry.
Connection and community may not be happening at our campuses, but we can, and should, make sure that it’s happening online. It is our job to come alongside our people and equip them throughout the week. It may not happen in the lobby, but it can happen online in digital groups.
When it comes to Sunday services, we’re seeing churches use language like this…
Church isn’t cancelled, we’re just meeting online.
The church is OPEN, while the building is closed.
That same thing can apply to your small groups or Sunday School classes.
You don’t have to cancel your groups, you can simply move them online.
Encourage your small groups to continue meeting online. While many states are initiating SIP protocals and every state is practicing social distancing, it's important to consider to mental and emotional ramifications of not getting together with other people.
Now, maybe more than ever in our lifetime, small groups matter. A group of researchers found that having strong social ties meant not just healthier minds, but also healthier bodies.
Meeting online can be a challenge, just as meeting in person with no childcare can be a challenge. There is major value and worth in your groups still getting together, no matter the current challenge.
If your small groups are able to meet via video, here are a couple video solutions for online small groups:
We’ve talked about zoom before, but this is a great solution for your groups. Have the leader schedule a zoom call or just start a zoom call and text or email the link. Everyone is able to jump online, see each other, and carry a conversation virtually. Zoom even has a chat feature to share links to devotionals or small group materials.
This is another group conference solution that will work great for online small groups. Most people have a Gmail account, which makes Google Hangouts a breeze. Have the small group create an event in the Google Calendar, and simply invite the other group members within the invite.
The key isn’t the technology, it’s intentionality.
Outside of your small group meetings, you can stay in touch with each other during the week. Provide regular check-ins to see if there are any needs, help people feel thought about, or just to laugh about funny memes.
Marco Polo combines the convenience and privacy of texting and the ease and fun of social media, all in one spot. You can send video or voice messages, do video calls or send text messages either in a group or 1:1.
At the end of the day, it just comes down to preference. The best tool is the one everyone is willing to use. Group leaders need to be encouraged to LEAN IN to their small group. Encouraged to continue to pastor and shepherd people, which means staying connected to them, wherever they are.
The church has left the building. We’re no longer able to gather as a family, which makes our connection to each other more difficult and significantly more important.
When it’s not considered safe to gather in person, it’s time to get creative, utilize technology, and be the Church outside of the building in new ways.
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:14
Live Streaming Best Practices
Live Streaming is one way to broadcast your church services. If your church is starting from scratch with live streaming, we’ve put together the things that you’ll need to know. If you’ve been livestreaming for a while now, you are still probably considering new ways to engage people in the new dynamic of “church at home.”
Although people can’t hug and smile at each other as they would in person, you still want your livestreaming church’s experience to be edifying and engaging.
Live Chat While Live Streaming
Most live streaming services have a chat feature that makes the online service interactive. Have staff or volunteers log into the chat and respond to comments and questions and ask questions to engage the online audience.
Comments and questions to engage a livestream audience:
Let us know where you’re watching from today!
What were your biggest takeaways from the sermon?
Remember to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and share your notes to encourage someone!
The chat feature is also a wonderful way to make sure that the service is accessible for everyone. For example, one church set up tech support to help senior adults get set up to view the service. Another sent snail mail to every household with instructions on how to watch their service on multiple platforms.
Change Up Service Times.
The same rules don’t apply in the livestreaming world, and your streaming times don’t have to be the same time as your normal church service times. You can choose your livestreaming times based on when your audience is online. Most streaming services have audience insights and for using Facebook live, your page’s Facebook Insights can help you see the most popular online times for your audience.
KEEP IT SIMPLE. Don’t overthink it. Most smartphones can do this.
It’s important to know your congregation and try to anticipate needs and questions. But don’t overthink it—most of this can be done from a smartphone. No matter how simple your setup (even if you’re streaming from an iPhone on your desk), people will appreciate the sharpening and consolation of a sermon and the ability to connect with others.
Getting Started with Live Streaming
Big Principle #1: You don’t have to replicate, you can innovate.
Too many churches are trying to reproduce everything from their in-person gathering online. It doesn’t work and it’s a mistake to try.
At least for most churches.
If you’re new to services online, don’t try to recreate everything. An online service can become something new, something fresh.
You can show pre-produced music. Or you can downplay music and corporate worship.
You can share an informal message from home rather than a polished sermon from a stage.
These things are not better or worse…they are different.
And it’s okay to be different.
Big Principle #2: Start where you are.
It’s easier than ever to show up online, and you don’t need fancy equipment and expensive tools to go live online.
Some good news in a time of widespread distress: there’s no shortage of options for live streaming your church services and continuing to share the real good news about Jesus.
Examples of Live Streaming Options
Check out the insanely practical tools that churches use to live stream.
Church Online Platform – This streaming tool is a free resource from Life.Church that includes features for real-time chat, live prayer, chat moderation, and more.
Facebook Live – Streaming through Facebook Live is a simple option and a great place to start if you’re new to livestreaming. While it does have its drawbacks, such as the difficulty embedding a replay onto your website and the pressure to pay, it's a simple tool that most everyone is already using.
The best way to get started is easy and free, right? These are not only free to and easy for you to use, they’re easy for people to watch as well.
Before you throw up a camera and start live streaming everything that you would normally do in a worship service, there is one major topic to consider first: music.
Christian Copyright Solutions provides many churches with the licenses they need each week. Did you know that each of the following may require a license by law?
Playing pre-recorded music
Performing songs live in person
Projecting or printing song lyrics
Live Streaming any / all of the above
A lot of churches assume that if they have one of these licenses, everything is covered. This isn't the case. For example, many churches use CCLI to cover their in-person worship music. CCLI also has a live streaming add-on license that you’ll need to check into if you plan on going live, since that’s what we’re talking about here.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what they are along with links to more detailed information and action steps (in their own words, since this is all specific legal language).
The WORSHIPcast Streaming License covers more than 25 million secular and Christian songs across all genres from ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, including holiday and patriotic music.
The CCLI Streaming License covers more than 300,000 Christian songs from the CCLI catalog. If your plans are only to stream Christian music, and your church already has a CCL Copyright License, the CCLI streaming license is a good fit. If your church or ministry plans on streaming any music outside the Christian genre, you will need WORSHIPcast.
If you plan on streaming just your worship services, the CCLI streaming license has you covered. For streaming worship services, special events, and guest performances, your church will need the WORSHIPcast license.
Don’t Forget the Lyrics
Need to show lyrics? This feature is only available with the CCLI license and only for the titles in the CCLI catalog. There is no blanket lyric streaming license for secular music available currently. Neither license allows you to stream sound recordings.
Additionally and for a limited time, One License is offering a free one month license to help ease the transition period for churches dealing with COVID-19.
Examples of Worship and Music
Check out the insanely practical ways that churches have adjusted their worship for streaming.
Skip the licenses and create a Spotify playlist that people can play in their own homes before and after the preaching or teaching.
Skip the fancy and go for a more casual and stripped-down “living room” feel for musical worship. It may also help people feel less self conscious about singing along from home.
Don’t feel like you have to pretend that things aren’t “business as usual.” Pastors can and maybe should address viewers at home. It may even be a good idea to rework the setting for worship services. Whether more traditional and formal or modern with more stage production, ask yourself if it’s helpful or hurtful to continue a “stage” presence.
Some churches are incorporating at least one more kid-friendly song in the worship set. Remember that whole families will be worshipping together, maybe for the first time!
Hunter Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL incorporated more scripture readings, prompting parents to read their Bibles aloud. What a beautiful example for their kids!
Bobby Smith, a modern worship pastor in the Atlanta area promoted a #HouseChurchJF hashtag, “collected the different posts of people worshipping all around, and compiled them to build a sense of togetherness in the midst of dispersion. Pretty cool to see so many people dig in.”
Ideas and Best Practices
Use a tool like Typeform to ask a question or two before people actually enter your live stream. It’s a great way to gather information and serve better.
Don’t forget about the people who show up early. Have something playing in the background before the service officially starts.
Make “eye contact” with viewers by looking at the camera to build a sense of connection.
Avoid creative but unnatural camera angles that remind viewers that they are spectators to something happening somewhere else.
For most, the Sunday morning service is the front
door to the church.
It’s the first-time people will experience your
church community. It’s when people hear
and sing the songs, listen to the sermon, and see others. I’m not saying this
is all there is (or that it’s even the most important thing), but it is usually
the most visible thing a church does.
That means your regular church service provides your
biggest opportunity for church growth.
Not special events, not one-off programs, and not
ministries that involve a few people. Those are great, but your church service
is likely your best opportunity to reach people.
regular church service is a driver for growth, then inviting people to your
church service is one of the biggest opportunities for growth.
Most churches know their church service is the front
door to the church and that personal invitations are the best way to grow, but
many churches aren’t really ready for new people.
There’s a hope that people would experience
God and community and be welcomed into the family. But deep down, there’s also fear and anxiety
about the kind of experience a new person would have.
It’s time to take an intentional look and what
happens around Sunday and before Sunday, to make sure you’re really ready to
challenge your church to invite and see guests show up on Sunday for the first
Before you spend money on advertising or encouraging
your congregation to invite, you need to make sure your service is ready for
Three Things to Do Before You Ask Your Church to
#1 – PRAY
growth is a combination of the blessings of God and the stewardship of
results somehow teamed with human endeavors. A combination of divine
intervention and human leadership.
Since the Church belongs to God, growth
is ultimately His responsibility. But He
chooses to use us in the process, and therefore, we have a stewardship
Even though we should bring systems,
strategies, processes, improvements, and tactics to bear, we must never forget
the church is a spiritual enterprise.
It’s much more than a business or an organization.
It’s a spiritual organism with eternal
That’s why any church growth strategy must begin with prayer.
And any outreach opportunity should be covered with prayer.
Pray for the church.
Pray for the service and the opportunity
you have to share the gospel and encourage Christians. Pray for the leaders, musicians, and
teachers. Pray over every environment. Pray for the children in the classrooms.
Pray for the people you’re trying to reach.
In addition to praying for church
activities and church services, don’t forget to pray for the people in your
In fact, leading your church to
intentionally pray (and subsequently invest) in one other person is a great
first step. People often need a burden
for a particular person before they see the opportunity to extend an
Pastor Joby Martin from The Church of Eleven22 in Jacksonville, Florida constantly talks about the idea of “one more,” reminding the congregation that evangelism is personal.
This rally cry is really meant to spark
care and concern within the church for one person outside of the church. They periodically organize and publicize “one
more” weekends when a clear Gospel invitation is given.
The initiative, made sticky with
consistent terminology and strategy, is a way to create an inviting
It’s “preparing the soil” type of work. Pastor Jeff Bogue from Grace Church in Akron, Ohio adopts a similar prayer strategy with a big initiative to challenge the church to “pray for our three.”
He teaches people to pray for three
friends, neighbors and co-workers and that God would give them a “no-brainer”
moment to extend an invitation or share their faith.
Both of these churches are leading their church to pray for an investment in members of the community. That’s work that can be done apart from challenges to invite.
When your church members are praying for their church and praying for people in the community, invitations (and an increase in first-time visits) is a likely outcome.
Prayer is always a good starting point
and worthy activity. This is how you can ensure that God really is the one
building His church and not us in our own efforts.
#2 – PRACTICE
If you were to watch a professional
football team practice, you wouldn’t see a lot of time devoted to hail mary’s
and trick plays. Instead, professional
teams work on the basic offense. They
work on the timing of normal plays. They
talk through game situations.
It’s a lot more boring than you might
That’s because a professional football
team knows that the game isn’t usually won or lost with a trick play. It’s consistent execution of the ordinary.
Your church service is like the 4-yard carry on first down, a successful play to a Super Bowl-winning team.
That’s why it’s so important to practice
every element that goes into a church service.
People can tell when singers, musicians,
teachers, and preachers are prepared. It
Make time in your weekly rhythm to practice everything that will happen on Sunday, from the announcements to the transitions to the Sunday School lessons.
It doesn’t cost any money to run through the songs, preach the message to a mirror, and let people practice key elements. In fact, this will be one of the most beneficial things you can do that will stand out to all of your churchgoers.
Making sure your church service is the
best it can be is something you want to do BEFORE you have a bunch of
first-time guests show up, who will absolutely make a decision to return
#3 – EVALUATE
like practice on the front end is free, evaluation on the back end is also a
no-cost way to get better.
Pay attention to these six areas:
deeper into a few of those areas.
What is meaningful to members might not be understandable to guests, so it’s helpful to look at each service through the lens of a first-time guest.
members will excuse or overlook a lack of quality in the church service because
they know the heart of people involved, but new people see this as a lack of
importance or a lack of excellence.
When the service is over, talk about what
worked and what didn’t work. Talk through what connected and what missed.
Make this normal, but a few times a year,
make an evaluation a really big deal. Be honest and bring others alongside you
who may be able to see things that you aren’t. Be willing to make changes if
you need to.
Evaluate Your Language
Most church services are designed to encourage
They contain language and traditions that make perfect sense to insiders but often leave new people wondering if they belong. Just bring a non-Christian with you to a service. They are bound to leave the service in some confusion and with lots of questions (or they may vow to never speak of it again and just not come back).
You can do just about anything you want in a service – baptism, communion, and worship are all great things. You just have to explain everything to new people.
Just about any religious tradition can have a place in your service, just don’t rush into it without explaining the meaning and purpose to new people.
We have several evaluation forms you can use to evaluate your church service, overall Sunday experience, special event, regular ministry, and staff. You'll find these resources, along with hundreds of others, in the Church Fuel resource library. Members get all of our resources and you can sign up here.
Evaluate Your Culture
I’ve never heard of a church whose
members claimed they were unfriendly. In fact, most church members are stumped
as to why people don’t like their church because they claim to be so
However, being a ‘friendly’ church can
often mean you’re friendly to each other, but not to your guests.
A family reunion is tons of fun unless you’re attending someone else’s event. That’s how a lot of guests feel when they visit a church for the first time.
That’s why you must continually look at
everything you do through the lens of a first-time guest. You need to hear their feedback and make
adjustments. You must look honestly at
everything you’re doing to make sure you’re really ready for new people.
You want new people to visit your church.
But you don’t want them to misunderstand,
have a bad experience, or refuse to return.
Prayer, intentional planning, and
evaluation can help you prepare for guests before they visit and ensure they
have a great experience.
Take a Next Step
Once you’ve prepared your church for
guests, it’s time to prepare your people to invite. Simply asking them to invite their friends,
isn’t enough. You must equip them with
Get practical ideas and real church examples in this free resource.
Since this is the case, there’s a ton of helpful advice out there on how to find your next pastor.
In this post, I created a short guide based on the best available advice to help you put together a pastoral search. Before getting into the nitty-gritty, let me save you some heartache and lay out the four common mistakes to avoid when searching for a new pastor.
4 common pastoral search mistakes
You’re going to make plenty of small mistakes along the way, and that’s okay. But you want to avoid stepping on one of these landmines during your pastoral search. One of them could blow up your entire process. So, tread lightly. ?
#1 – Avoid advice
Let me state the obvious:
Finding a new pastor is challenging.
Know what else?
This task isn’t something your church does every day.
In this post, I’m going to share practical advice handed down over years of pastoral search committee experiences. Following these tips will place you on the right track. But there’s one colossal limit this blog post possesses:
It will not turn you into an expert.
Becoming an expert in anything takes time, dedicated practice, and experience.
Does this mean you shouldn’t move forward in your pastoral search?
Far from it.
Here’s what this means:
In your search for a new pastor, don’t overlook your potential lack of experience with hiring people. Instead, be humble. Acknowledge the possibility that you, your church staff, or your church members may not have the skills you need to promptly find the right pastor for your church.
This process isn’t a simple task you can mark off of a church project-management to-do list. The life of your church marches on without a senior pastor, and in his or her absence, you may lose church members, experience a decline in giving, or lose forward momentum. When (not if) this happens, your search for a new pastor will feel more urgent, which can lead your search committee to make a rash decision.
As you prepare to search for a new pastor, consider soliciting advice from outside sources, such as your:
When it comes to pastoral searches, many churches have erred in two ways:
1. Moving too fast
2. Moving too slow
First of all, there’s no need to move too fast.
Don’t offer the position to the first person you interview. Give yourself and your search committee time to interview several candidates. There’s no need to rush the process.
The other error you want to avoid is moving too slow.
It’s easy to make the position public, receive interest, and then never return an email or phone call. Moving too slow will cost your church the interest of great candidates, and an unnecessarily lengthy search process will negatively influence your church members.
#3 – Lack of communication
Searching for a new pastor is a public (church) thing—not a private matter.
Even though your church may have a board, bishop, or search committee who’ll make the final decision in hiring a senior pastor, you shouldn’t leave your church members in the dark.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to forget to keep your church up-to-date.
How’s the process going?
Has your search committee narrowed down their list?
Will you invite a candidate to interview soon?
These are just some of the questions your church members are thinking. Instead of tempting them to gossip, it’s best to continually share updates while being open and honest..
Know who else needs to know what’s going on?
People who’ve applied for the position.
As you work through the pool of applicants, be quick to let those who didn’t make your short list know, and provide them with encouraging words to keep pursuing their vocational call to ministry.
Have you identified candidates you’d like to learn more about?
It’s best to let them know as well.
As I shared above, you don’t want to keep your candidates sitting in the dark for too long.
#4 – Unrealistic expectations
Executive skill set.
These are just some of the characteristics you may be looking for in your next pastor, and it makes sense. It’s nice to have someone who can “do it all.”
But here’s the deal:
From vocational ministry to the business world, you’ll never find someone who is or can do everything. So, be careful that you don’t place unrealistic expectations on the pastor you’re searching for that Jesus himself can't fulfill.
In your pastoral search, your search committee will have to define exactly what you’re looking for in a candidate. During this process, be sure to clarify your church’s priorities versus qualities that are nice to have.
A 7-step playbook for finding your next pastor
Now it’s time to get work.
After pouring over a ton of different resources from denominations, networks, and independent churches, I put together this 7-step playbook for finding your next pastor.
Here is the table of contents:
1. Pray, pray, and pray
2. Build a search committee
3. Find an interim pastor
4. Know the vision of your church
5. Know who you’re looking for
6. Review your applications
7. Interview your candidates (thoroughly)
It's time to get started.
#1 – Pray, pray, and pray
At ChurchFuel, we’re practical people—it’s what we do.
We have a biasness for action, and a tendency to act first.
We’re not alone.
As a church leader, you’re beyond busy.
Your schedule (LINK) can be unruly.
You have more work to do than hours to do it.
Now, in the search for a new pastor, you have a huge task to accomplish. At this point, it’s easy just to put your head down, make a plan, and start knocking out the work you need to do like whack-a-mole.
Take a breath and prepare to pray—a lot.
Calling a new pastor to serve your church isn’t a simple task. Sure, you can hire anyone you like. But you want to do more than find a hired hand. You want to discover the next pastor God is calling to lead your church, and this is a spiritual matter that can only be accomplished through prayer.
As you prepare to search for a new pastor, here are three things you’ll need to pray for:
2. Search committee
3. Future candidates
As for wisdom, you need to submit your work to the Lord. Place yourself and your church in his hands, and ask for him to lead the way. A prayer for wisdom isn’t a one-time event. Seeking God’s input through prayer is something you’ll need to do on an ongoing basis.
In your prayers, you’ll also need to pray for your search committee. At this point in the process, you haven’t put together a search committee. But you’ll want to start praying for God to put together the right team.
Don’t stop praying for your search committee after they're formed. You’ll want to lead your church to pray for them throughout this process. So, however you share prayer requests with your church members, be sure to include a call to pray for your search committee.
Finally, you’ll want to pray for your future candidates. Ask the Lord to lead the right person to serve your church, and pray for that person’s well-being and family throughout this process.
#2 – Build a search committee
Remember, searching for a new pastor is a public (church) task.
This is a principle that undergirds finding a new pastor—especially when it comes to forming a search committee. If prayer is the fuel that drives your church, the search committee is the engine behind finding your church’s next pastor.
Since forming a search committee is vital to this process, let’s take a moment to talk about the following:
What is a search committee?
How many people should be on your committee?
Who should be on your search committee?
What roles should form your committee?
Let’s dig in!
What is a search committee?
A search committee is a group of people in your church who are temporarily organized to find your church’s next pastor. From developing a job description, screening candidates, and setting up interviews, the search committee leads the process of finding your church’s next pastor.
How many people should be on your search committee?
For your search committee, it’s best to have an odd number of people, in the range of 7–11.
An odd number of members will help your team to avoid a stalemate.
Shouldn’t the search committee unanimously agree on the decisions they make?
This would be nice.
But a unanimous decision isn’t necessary.
Here’s the deal:
Your search committee should be made up of people with different perspectives. When this is the case, there’s a good chance that not everyone will agree on whomever your church decides to call as their next pastor.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a bad thing.
When disagreements are present, then your search committee will be able to talk through differences, make a compromise, and move toward the middle in whatever decisions they make.
For your church committee, you don’t want fewer than 7 members, and you want to avoid having more than 11. If you have less than 7 people on your search committee, then there’s a good chance your committee will get overwhelmed by the work and move too slow during the process. On the other hand, if you have more than 11 people, you run the risk of taking too much time to make decisions.
Who should be on your search committee?
Your search committee should reflect your church.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Involvement in the church
Positions in the church
Regardless of the polity your church does or doesn’t have for selecting a search committee, make sure your committee reflects the life of your church as best as possible. This way you can ensure that this process is a public (church) task.
What roles should form your committee?
Here are the three essential roles you need to fill in your search committee:
The chairperson is the man or woman responsible for leading the search committee. The chairperson’s primary role is to schedule meetings and oversee the work that needs to be done.
The secretary will take notes and help everyone stay on track.
Finally, the communications director is the person responsible for communicating with the church and with the candidates.
Don’t overlook this last position. Without having a dedicated communications director, you run the risk of keeping your church and candidates in the dark or slowing down communication to a standstill.
#3 – Find an interim pastor
In between senior pastors, your church will have a considerable gap to fill—especially in the pulpit.
One idea to consider during this pastoral transition is to identify an interim pastor.
An interim pastor is someone you can hire, an assistant pastor, staff member, or even shared responsibility among your church's leadership. Whatever your church decides, be sure to clarify the most critical work that needs to be done in the absence of your previous pastor, and ensure that someone or a group fulfills these responsibilities.
Here’s what else you need to know:
Having an interim pastor will help you fight the urge to hire someone too fast.
An interim pastor can preach and take on other responsibilities while your church works toward calling its next pastor.
#4 – Know the vision of the church
There’s one vital step your search committee needs to take before moving forward:
Your search committee needs to agree (not by a vote) on the vision of your church.
Thankfully, this isn’t something your search committee will need to define. This is something your church has probably already nailed down in a vision or mission statement. So, your committee won’t have to recreate the wheel at this point.
Here’s why this important:
The mission and vision of your church will influence the type of pastor you call.
In one way, the location of your church (urban, suburban, or rural) will naturally influence the type of pastors who will submit an application or be open to considering serving your church. Differently, your church’s mission, worship style, and philosophy of ministry will also influence what type of pastor you hire.
Here’s what else to keep in mind:
What is your church’s vision for the future?
For the answer to this question, your search committee needs to take stock of where you’re at and what type of pastor you need to help you get to where you want to go. When your team is armed with this information, then they’ll be in a better position to define what type of pastor can help your church fulfill its mission, which leads me to the next point.
#5 – Know who you’re looking for
Creating a job description is one of the first big tasks your search committee will need to complete.
Don’t treat this as a simple task to complete.
This job description is so much more than a random posting on a church staffing website. This description stakes a claim about your church and the type of pastor your church is seeking. What is more, the description you create will also influence the kind of candidates who apply.
When creating the job description or ministry profile, here are specific things you want to include:
Personal, familial, and spiritual characteristics
Job (pastoral) expectations
Philosophy of ministry
Ideal ministry setting
Personal testimony and call to ministry
Don’t rush this process—your search committee won’t be able to complete this in one evening. For a lot of this information, if your church is affiliated with a denomination or network, then you can lean on your network for input.
Keep in mind the future of your church. For example, if your church needs help breaking the 200 barrier, then it’s ideal to find a pastor who has experience doing this.
Know what else?
Depending on the size of your church, you’ll need to be careful of what type of pastor you call. For example, it’ll be difficult for a pastor of a 200-member church to lead a church of 2,000. Can he or she learn how to do this? Sure. Unless you have the time or a transitional plan in place where your current pastor will mentor the next pastor, then prayerfully move forward if your committee “believes” a candidate may fit the bill.
Here’s a different side of this coin to consider:
A pastor transitioning from a solo situation to a team or a team to a solo situation may struggle.
The skills anyone needs—including pastors—to work with or without a team are different. If someone is skilled at being a solo pastor, then he or she will need time, resources, and support to learn how to work well with a team.
If a pastor akin to working with a team is considering a solo pastoral opportunity, then be sure to ask him or her if they’re ready to work without a team. This might seem inconsequential. But the type of work required in a solo setting versus a team setting differs, and the pastor considering a call in this scenario needs to consider this.
#6 – Review your applications
Let’s say you’ve already completed the steps listed above.
What is more, let’s also imagine that a couple of months have already passed, and you’ve received multiple applications.
What do you do next?
Are you supposed to interview every candidate?
After you receive applications, the first step your search committee should take is to create a short list. Based on the criteria you established in the previous step, examine applications and decide whether each candidate fits the qualifications.
At this point, there are three things you can do:
At the first step, you can simply pass on candidates who do not meet the requirements for the position. As a search committee, you need to be prepared to receive applications from candidates who do not meet the qualifications—especially in the area of skills and experience.
In pastoral searches, many people will wrestle with a perceived internal call from God to serve as your next pastor. Some candidates may be called to serve in vocational ministry. But based on their pastoral experience, they are not the right person for your church. In these cases, it’s okay to say no and to let them know as quickly as possible.
During your search, there will be other candidates who you’re on the fence about. In these moments, it’s okay to pause and further explore this candidate. When you run across candidates who you’re not sure about passing on or moving forward with, you can follow up with them to ask a few questions. This can be done via email or someone from your search committee can speak with the candidate directly and report back to the team.
Finally, if an applicant meets the qualifications for the position, you can go—move forward—with interviewing them as a potential candidate, which leads me to the next point.
#7 – Interview your candidates (thoroughly)
Have your short list handy?
Great, now it’s time to move on to the interviews.
How many candidates should you invite to interview?
Well, it depends.
At a minimum, we suggest interviewing at least 3–5 candidates.
Now, when I say interviews, I’m not only talking about a friendly fireside chat over the phone. What I have in mind is inviting the candidate and his or her spouse to visit your church for a few days.
For this process to be effective, you’ll want to schedule 3–4 days and make sure they connect with multiple people and groups, including:
Church leaders and spouses
Small groups or Bible studies
Basically, you want candidates to meet as many people as possible.
By making multiple connections through your church, you’ll be better able to gauge how well your church members respond to candidates.
What is more, during your interview process, there are three areas you want to look into:
2. Personal life
3. Family life
Let’s take a look at these in detail!
#1 – Experience
When it comes to a candidate’s experience, look closely.
Here are some things to be on the lookout for:
Social media accounts
When your committee is reviewing a candidate, it’s essential to connect with his or her referrals or recommendations. This is a time-consuming yet vital step you don’t want to skip. There have been plenty of cases of churches who did not connect with a candidate’s referrals, and then discovered months or years later of significant issues that disqualify him or her from the ministry.
Here’s what else you’ll need to do:
Invite your candidates to preach and teach.
At a minimum, you want every candidate you’re seriously considering to preach. It’s one thing to listen to a candidate’s sermons. It's another thing to hear him or her preaching from the Bible for your church.
Also, depending on your church and the candidate’s time, it’s also a good idea to have him or her teach a Sunday school class, lead a small group, or whatever is essential for your church.
Requiring this step will give you and your church first-hand experience of each candidate’s ability to preach and teach.
#2 – Personal life
The pastor you call is your next shepherd.
He or she should be able to set a grace-filled example of what it means to live and love like Jesus.
There’s only one way you can find this out:
By asking each candidate questions, listening, and chatting with referrals.
Here are just some of the questions you’ll want to ask:
What are your views about [fill in the blank]?
What do you think about the use of alcohol? Smoking?
Can you describe your devotional life?
What place does family have in your life?
How do you approach sermon preparation?
Are you involved in your community?
What hobbies do you have?
There are many more questions you can ask. But this list will get you started.
#3 – Family life
Finally, the last big area you want to explore is a candidate’s family life.
Assuming your candidate is married and has kids, you might ask these questions:.
How often do you go out with your spouse?
In what ways are you discipling your children?
How would you describe your relationship with your spouse?
You don’t want to leave these questions to your candidate. During the interview process, you can also ask his or her spouse similar questions to gauge their relationship.
Before moving on, there’s one last thing I’d like to emphasize:
Require your search committee to maintain strict confidentiality.
It’s okay for your team to speak in general terms. But it’s best for everyone to hold back their thoughts on individual candidates until a final decision is made.
Calling your next pastor
In the end, it’s time for your church to make a decision.
How this decision is made will be influenced by your denomination or network. For example, do you allow your church committee to make a decision or recommendation, does your church’s leadership (elders, deacons, board) make the decision, or does the entire church cast a vote?
To make your decision, we don’t suggest requiring a unanimous vote. Instead, we suggest requiring two-thirds (2/3) of your committee or church to vote in favor of your next pastor.
Regardless of whom you call, your work isn’t done.
It’s now time to partner together with your future pastor to share the gospel, make disciples, and be a light in your community.