Please join me and other church growth and engagement experts at the echurch Summit on February 8-10 at Disneyland Hotel, Anaheim, CA.
This is an interactive event intended to help church leaders, senior pastors, communications teams, media teams, tech teams and church staff learn how to overcome the biggest challenges facing the church today and help the church grow fast.
I'll be speaking together with Executive Pastors Annie Duncan and Blue Van Dyke, New York Times Best Selling Author Bob Goff, Gateway's Lead Executive Pastor Todd Lane among others and the event's keynote speaker is renowned author, coach and speaker, John Maxwell.
Pastor search committees are tasked with the weighty responsibility of finding a new leader for their church. But this holy endeavor is far from easy or simple. When you’re searching for your next pastor, watch out for these seven common missteps of pastor search committees.
1. They have too many or too few people on the search committee.
If you have too many people on your search committee, you’re going to move slower and have trouble coming to consensus about decisions. If you have too few people, your committee may feel overwhelmed with the amount of work in the pastor search process and may burn out quickly.
I recommend that search committees have somewhere between seven and eleven people. You should have an odd number of people to prevent stalemates when taking votes. If you have more than eleven people, you might have “too many cooks in the kitchen” and lose your ability to be nimble as a team. The more differing opinions and voices that need to be heard on your search committee, the longer the pastor search process will take.
2. They don’t commit to prayer from the beginning.
A prayerful pastor search process is crucial to finding whom God is calling to your church. In my book SEARCH: The Pastoral Search Committee Handbook, I included a pastor search committee prayer guide to help center your committee on seeking the Lord about who He’s calling to be your next leader.
Share your prayer guide with your congregation and invite them to pray along with your committee. Pray for your new pastor and their family. Pray for wisdom and discernment for your committee and church staff. Pray for your church in this season of transition, as change isn’t easy for any organization. The pastor search process is sacred, so unite your congregation as you cover it in prayer.
3. They don’t establish how they’re going to make decisions.
Once you have the right people on the pastor search committee, you must decide how you’re going to make decisions. I often see committees stuck because they don’t establish guidelines up front for how decisions will be made. Will you require a majority vote or unanimity to move forward with a pastor candidate? What is your protocol if a committee member can’t make it to the next meeting?
Set a decision-making process on the front end of the search process to avoid frustration and confusion down the road. There is a Pastor Search Committee Member Agreement in SEARCH that can put your committee on the same page about how decisions will be made as a group.
4. They don’t establish roles on the committee.
In your first committee meeting, you should assign roles to each person on the committee. Search committees that complete this step cut down on their search process timeline because they are organized and focused on who is doing what.
Here are six ideas for roles to get you started:
- The Coordinator is organizationally gifted to coordinate meetings and schedules.
- The Communicator heads up the search committee’s communication with the elders, board, and congregation.
- The Prayer Warrior coordinates prayer for the committee and congregation.
- The Follow-Upper is the point person for incoming applications and communication with candidates.
- The Recruiter researches and recruits candidates that the committee would like to consider.
- The Host or Hostess has the gift of hospitality and plans for the candidate interviews.
5. They don’t communicate with the congregation.
If a committee doesn’t have The Communicator on the search team, I find that the search committee forgets to regularly communicate with the church. Keep your congregation updated on a monthly basis at minimum. I also recommend you have a website or landing page where people can visit to stay updated on the pastor search process. You might even consider recording video updates about your search that you can post on your church’s website, social media, and in email updates.
6. They don’t have a projected timeline and move too slow with candidates.
I see churches lose great pastor candidates far too often because they waited weeks or months to communicate with a candidate in between phone calls or interviews. One of the biggest complaints I hear from candidates is, “The pastor search committee flew me out for an interview, then I never from them again.” Take the time to keep your candidates updated on where they stand in the search process.
7. They have unrealistic expectations about the role.
The qualifications that many pastor search committees want for their pastoral candidates are so specific that even Jesus wouldn’t meet them (Jesus wasn’t married and didn’t preach every Sunday). While it’s vital for your pastor search committee to have specific qualities you’re looking for in your next pastor, take a moment to ask, “What are the qualities that we must have, and which ones are simply preferences?” Candidates are much more than just a resume, so spend intentional time as a committee determining the type of pastor you’re looking for and if your requirements are realistic to have in one person. Have a way to consistently and objectively evaluate candidates as a search committee, and you’ll be on the right path to a smooth search process.
I wrote SEARCH: The Pastoral Search Committee Handbook to provide a guide for pastor search committees navigating the daunting search process. I hope it’s a blessing to you and your church as you plan for healthy and effective pastoral transitions.
At Community Bible Church we have consistently seen that 40% of our website traffic are first time visitors from our local area. These visitors are primarily coming from Google Search and Social Media.
When they visit our site we have found based on analytics that they are interested in 4 things:
Service Times & Location
Staff/Senior Pastor information
We have also found that returning visitors go to 3 primary pages:
While we don’t want to hide information from our members or returning site visitors, we have found that their time on site is longer and they will spend the time to find what they are looking for. If a first time website visitor has a hard time finding the key information they are looking for they will likely to disengage and move on. So, how do you make a great first impression with your website?
This first starts with defining your goal for your website visitors. For Community Bible Church that is attending a worship service at one of our physical campuses in San Antonio or attending our Online Campus if they live outside of San Antonio, Texas. My guess is that your goal is pretty much the same. So, how can you do this?
Clean and Vibrant Design - your website should look much like your church lobby: welcoming, clean, and clear. Use images or videos that give visitors a look into your worship experiences and church campus. Show friendly faces and engaging imagery.
Communicate Clearly - make sure your service times and locations are easy to see and find. Also, make sure it is clear what families are expected to do with their kids and what that check-in process will be like before they arrive.
Meet the Pastor - while your church is more than your Pastor, people still desire to feel a personal connection to their pastor. While you don’t need to feature your pastor on the homepage, you should make sure that people can get to know them on the website before attending.
Offer Video Messages - before we go to a restaurant or hotel we check out the reviews. We want to see pictures, hear what others say, and get the best understanding of what we are about to experience. By offering your sermons via video on your website you allow potential visitors to get the great possible perspective on whether your church might be the best fit for them and their family.
So, leave the clutter behind and create a great first impression that helps move people from curious website visitors to worship service attenders.
How else are you helping to make a great first impression with your website? What sites out there do you see that make a great first impression?
One other recommendation that I would encourage you to consider is a great value add that we have created: Live Chat. We have added a live chat feature to our website where a digital receptionist is logged in and ready to answer questions via live chat or visitors can leave a message that are returned within 12 hours. This level of engagement has proven to create a “wow factor” and personalization to the first impression we are creating with the website.
Will you do me a favor as you begin reading? Go to your church’s website on your mobile device and see how it performs. Is it easy to read? Is it easy to navigate? Is it mobile responsive (do you have to pinch and expand a lot… if so it’s not mobile responsive)? Are you quickly and easily able to find what you are looking for through the mobile site.
Will you do me another favor? Will you go to your Google Analytics account (I hope you have one) and check how much of your traffic is mobile? My guess is that it is around 50%. If it is less than that it’s probably because you don’t have a very good website for mobile and mobile visitors aren’t returning.
The bottom line to this is that your church’s website needs to be “mobile responsive.” That means that it responds to the platform that it’s on whether a desktop, tablet, or desktop to deliver the optimal experience for that device. You likely don’t know how to do that. I don’t know how to do that! Website developers do. If your website is not mobile responsive today you need to make this a top priority and either hire a developer to make it responsive or build you a responsive site or move to a platform like Squarespace or Wix that automatically makes all sites mobile responsive.
Having a mobile responsive website will also optimize your Google ranking and provide so much value to your visitors. Just having a mobile responsive site is not enough though. Your content must be optimized for a mobile user. You don’t want to be too wordy or have too many images that force too much scrolling. You also don’t want to have long forms that people will likely abandon if it requires too much information. Your site should be simple in nature communicating clearly and directly with simple calls to action.
Likely, your visitors are coming to your site for 3 reasons:
To visit your church/attend a service
Watch a sermon
Make a Donation
Test out these 3 things on your mobile device and see how easy it is to get this information/navigate an online donation. If it’s frustrating for you it will be frustrating for others. Take time to visit some other church websites on your mobile and see how they communicate these things and how you might be able to learn from their website layout.
The mobile trend won’t be slowing down anytime soon and you will likely need to begin thinking through how your website functions on a watch or tv as these various technologies and integrations continue to expand the world of mobile.