By Dr. J. D. "Sonny" Tucker

Executive Director, Arkansas Baptist State Convention

The Pastor Search Process

By Dr. J. D. "Sonny" Tucker

Executive Director, Arkansas Baptist State Convention

The pastor search process is one of the greatest opportunities in the life of a church, as it firmly establishes a foundation for God’s future blessings. This is one of the most advantageous times to dream, rethink, pull the fellowship together and pray for God’s incredible hand on the life and future of the congregation. For this to be one of the greatest times in the life of the congregation, several things must be in place.

The congregation and search team must realize this is a critical moment of opportunity and calls for great spiritual intensity and preparation. The congregation, current staff and search team must all be equally aware of what is involved in the process and exactly what it should look like. This is definitely not the time for slacking off or neglecting information. This is not a time to learn as you go along, but rather the time to learn from wise and seasoned veterans who have been through this process.

The pastor search team must fully understand and embrace that they have been given one of the greatest roles of trust from the congregation. The search team must accurately and fairly represent the wishes, desires and DNA of the church. The search team has no right or authority to set a new vision or try to establish new DNA for the church. They are only given the right to represent the wishes and desires of the church body. When search teams work with a hidden agenda of establishing new DNA for the church, it almost always results in serious conflict within the congregation. It can also result in the new pastor’s ministry dreams being dashed and the new pastor’s family being wounded.

The church and the search team must trust that God’s timing is perfect! If the search process goes quickly, goes about as expected or if it takes a long time ‑ God’s timing is still perfect. The church must absolutely trust that God will not allow doors to open and things to happen until the timing is exactly perfect. 

A congregation must protect and care for its existing staff in a special way during the interim process, as it is typical to overload staff with extra work during this time. When a congregation calls a present church staff person as their interim pastor, it is typical for that staff person to leave within 18 months after the new pastor is called. The church has a God-given duty to protect and walk alongside its staff during this interim process. 

I regularly suggest that churches consider a new and successful ministry called a “Smart Start Interim.” We have trained several people who are able to come in immediately after the previous pastor exits for an 8-12 week interim period. The “Smart Start Interim Pastor” fills the pulpit and hits the topics that are needed to assist a congregation in moving to prepare for and embrace the future. They assist a congregation in optional ways of choosing the Pastor Search Committee, exploring different types of interims and establishing a new vision for the future. 

The ABSC welcomes hearing from your church as you enter the interim/pastor search process so that I can pray for you personally and offer my assistance in anyway possible. My prayer is that God will help Arkansas Baptists – the greatest folks in the world – have highly effective pastor search processes.

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