Recommendations for Vacant Churches

We here at Congdon Street Baptist Church recently elected a New Pastor to our Congregation. Rev. Justin Lester came from Nashville, Tennessee to Providence, Rhode Island.  So far this partnership between Pastor and People has shown favorably for our Church.  As we finished our steps as a Pastoral search team, we thought an awesome opportunity would be to share with other churches who may be vacant, some recommendations we have for your search committee as you search for a Pastor. 

Most important
-Prayer! (James 5:16)
We began and continued in prayer this entire process.  Prayer was the most essential and important element in our search.  Prayer is also at Pastor Justin’s core as well. 

(Listed in no particular order)
For the Pastoral Search Committee

-Have a diverse board of people making decisions (Acts 13:1-2)
Our board for our pastoral search consisted of varying ages, socio-economic backgrounds, giving patterns, their length of membership the church, and gender.  As you select and pray over the committee, know that this committee is selecting the vision and leadership for the next 20-30 years of your congregation. 

-Ask the congregation what they are looking for intentionally and let the church members know the process (Nehemiah 2:11-18)
We had transition meetings throughout the process where we kept the membership abreast on every step.  We knew if we kept everything visible, the congregation would continue to trust us and know we were making decisions for their best interests. 

-Be okay with what you want (Mark 10:46-52)
After you have prayed over the process, ask your congregation exactly what they are looking for,  God asks us to be specific in what we pray for.  Praying for specific needs helps us define our needs.  We made a specific outline of who we are currently, where we prayed the Lord would take us, and what type of leader we would need to bring us there.  Be specific! For example: Do you want a praying Pastor? Male/Female? College Educated? Pastoral Experience? Cultural background? Social/Cultural location?

-Mention the things that are unique to your church (Colossians 1:3-8)
In the profile of your congregation mention the items to the candidate that are unique to your church.  When you have a specific and unique profile to give to the candidate, you can narrow down the people who are simply looking to pastor, and those called to your congregation.  Things like: What type of worship do you have? What type of people attend the church? Are you a multi-cultural church? What type of finances to you have?

The Process

Reach beyond the states in your reach (Isaiah 54:2)
Be comfortable with reaching outside of your immediate region to see who the Lord has for you.  While we searched in our state and region, God had our future pastor in Tennessee.  God showed him to us when we expanded our reach.   With that, use connections that your members have in secular fields.  We understood that some of the connections elsewhere in the country would not always begin in the church.  As a team and congregation, we sought friends and colleagues in secular fields of work to connect with job sites and pastors in other states that would spread out our search. We also contacted Academic Deans at theology schools and universities for their insight into understanding courses and curricular.

Take your time (Hebrews 6:11-12)
We were vacant for over a year.  The process needed our patience.  We read through hundreds of applications and rested until we felt we had the candidates that fit best in our culture, present, and foreseeable future. With that, be knowledgeable of your denominational guidelines (i.e. National Baptist, United Baptist, Progressive Baptist, American Baptist, local fellowships etc) They will help guide what may be best according to the denomination and other pastors.  It will complement an informal network of churches that are looking for your best interests. 

The Interim Pastor/Period must be focused and intentional (Isaiah 61:1)
Be certain to be prayerful over the interim pastor and period.  The period is not a holding period, it is a period where the church can continue to grow biblically, personally, and sustain her practices. A wasted interim period will delay progress when you select a pastor.   This interim period helps the congregations to truly see themselves through unbiased evaluations.  Sometimes churches will rate themselves higher on their spiritual readiness.  Remember, when you are not honest with yourselves, you are lying to yourselves. Contact your local denomination headquarters (for us, American Baptist Churches of Rhode Island) for possible leaders for the period.  Do not merely find associate ministers to preach, who could use the pulpit to campaign for themselves, select one voice that will challenge and build community for the pastor to come.     

-Utilize Technology (Nehemiah 2:18)
We live in a technological world.  Utilize technology to see the candidate preaching, teaching etc.  Most, if not all, preachers have a facebook/twitter/instagram/youtube/vimeo page(s).  Whether or not you know how to use the media, ask them to show you their pages.  Just as secular hires scour through social media before hiring, churches must do the same.  To the unsaved, the Pastor’s words reflect Jesus’ words.  Especially on social media.  At the same time, also ask yourselves do you want a candidate that is technologically proficient? How do they show themselves online? How do they communicate online? Does that fit your profile?

We used standard administrative hiring practices during the application screening process. We are more than open to share this with you!

The Candidate
For suggestions on how to prepare to become a part of the congregation from a Candidates perspective, read Pastor Justin’s Blog here. 

His view is not on campaigning, for when he came to the church it was built on prayer.  His view is how he prepared once the church selected him, he accepted, and what he learned from the process.

We pray that this will assist a church who is going through the process of finding a Pastor.  What we pray against is what the children of Israel did when they selected Saul.  Saul was great, but their reasoning was, “He was a head taller than everyone else.” (1 Samuel 9:2) Let your selection be God-driven, God-motivated, and God-saturated.  God knows who he wants to come and take care of his wife, let God share that with you!

If you have any questions or want to talk with us, contact us here and let us know so we can reach out to you!