Search committee coaching

Creative Commons "still searching" by spinster cardigan is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Creative Commons “still searching” by spinster cardigan is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A while back I posted about using the coach approach to help clients navigate the search & call process. I’ve been thinking lately about how coaching could help search committees as well. In my experience and from other ministers’ accounts, search committees are made up of dedicated church members who earnestly want to find the right minister for their congregation. Many committees dive into their work without much planning or training, however, leading to difficulties during the search itself, a shorter honeymoon period when the called minister arrives, and/or an altogether poor fit between church and minister. The coach approach would help search committees design the right process for their setting, anticipate hiccups, and set the table for the called minister to get off to a fast start. The coach’s help would supplement any assistance from the judicatory.

Here are some of the areas for which I think focused questions would greatly benefit a search process:

  • Putting together a search committee that is representative of the entire congregation
  • Composing a search committee covenant
  • Estimating the length and designating the stages of the search process
  • Dealing with pressure from the congregation to move more quickly
  • Determining how to make decisions as a committee
  • Communicating with the congregation about the committee’s progress
  • Developing a congregational profile
  • Identifying the qualifications that best match the congregational profile
  • Naming lingering feelings about the last pastor to avoid making choices out of reactivity
  • Outlining a fair compensation package
  • Thinking through where to advertise/look for candidates
  • Culling resumes
  • Designing interview process
  • Asking interview questions that give the committee the information it needs to make a decision
  • Presenting the candidate to the congregation
  • Ensuring committee follows congregational constitution/by-laws in extending a call
  • Making next steps if a candidate rejects an offer
  • Resourcing the called minister for a fast start

What would you add to this list? How might a thought partner around these pieces of a search process benefit your congregation?


2 thoughts on “Search committee coaching

  1. One of the major challenges in our recent search was how much to share with the congregation, or segments of the congregation as the process was evolving. When you share a little information, or ask a committee for guidance on an issue, they can sometime latch on to another issue and upset the discussion because they don’t have the full knowledge of the rest of the committee, and bad information gets out to the congregation. On the other hand, if you hold back, the congregation feels they are in the dark. It is important to remind the congregation that this is a democratic process where all segments of the church are represented, and those elected people are working as hard as they can to what is best for the church. Give the committee your trust, and don’t question them for details unless they ask for your input.


    1. Great points. Who needs to know what, and when do they need to know it? How do you communicate and build trust with the whole congregation about process even when there are few details you can share about candidates?


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