Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What should smaller churches look for in a new pastor?

For the past 14 years I have served as a Resource Minister with the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky.  One primary responsibility I have is to assist our churches when they seek new pastors.  Over the years I have worked with dozens of churches during their search, many of them smaller churches. A question I always ask these committees is what they are seeking in their new pastor.  After they give me their answers I then ask them what the vision of their church is.  Despite having worked with many churches, not one has ever been able to tell me the vision that drives the ministry of their church.  I explain that until they have a sense of where God is leading their church it will be difficult for them to call the right pastor.

I know many smaller churches believe that they need a pastor who can grow their church or one who can attract young people to their church, but that is not always the case.  What is God's vision for your church?  It may not be to have a great youth group or even to grow numerically into a large church.  God's vision may be for your church to offer a specific ministry to your community that no other church offers, but that ministry may not lead to great numbers of people attending your church.

One small church is located in a small community that enjoyed a country music hall that attracted some of the top names in country music.  A church was started in the community with a specific ministry to the people who visited the community each weekend to hear the entertainers who came to that hall to perform.  Services were held at a time that permitted visitors to the community to attend church and have time to return to their hotel room before check-out time.  The music in the worship services reflected the same style of music the people had heard the night before.  Over the years thousands of visitors from all over the world attended that little church and signed their visitor book.  Some of them found Christ while visiting that small church and returned to their homes changed people with a message that could change the lives of others.  This church may never grow to be a big church, but that doesn't appear to be God's vision for the church.  His vision is for this little church to have a world-wide ministry by reaching out to a specific group of people.

This church needs a pastor who can buy into this vision and minister within it.  They probably don't need a pastor who can reach youth because that is not the audience they are serving.  They don't need a pastor who feels called to pastor a megachurch because this church will never be a megachurch.  They minister in a small community primarily to people who are visiting their community for a short period of time for a specific purpose.  They don't need a pastor with great gifts in administration as there is not a lot of administration needed in the church.  They need a pastor who can relate to country music fans, who can share the Gospel with unchurched people from various cultures, and who has an appreciation for small communities.  Now, if God's vision for the church changes then what they will need in a pastor will change as well.

If your church is looking for a pastor you need to begin by understanding God's vision for your church and then looking for a pastor who have the gifts and a passion for that vision.  If you are a pastor looking for a church you should begin by seeing if your gifts and ministry passions match what the church has identified as God's vision for their future.

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