January 14, 2017

The church hiring process takes an absorbent amount of time and energy with meetings, committees, budgets, emails, and decisions. There are well-accepted myths among churches that have become standard thought when making a hire.  We can’t tell that the problem is compounding possibly because we haven’t taken a closer look at what’s really going on. A “frog in the boiling pot” scenario for most hiring committees. There are myths that lead to the hiring process being broken and here are only six of those.


I once spoke with a manager at a large firm who said that the process they use for promoting people takes a large amount of time as to attempt to ensure better quality promotions. She went on further to say that this reasoning has never worked right for their company because most of the quality candidates move on to “better opportunities” before the process is over, leaving the less desirable candidates in the pool for promotion. These “less desirable” candidates are the ones running the company.

This same outlook can be found in countless churches across the US. It has been said that a majority of churches in the small to mid-sized range take at least six months to a year before hiring a candidate, and sometimes even longer.

After interviewing several pastors and past board members of churches it can be said that there is a great loss in a congregation as far as numbers when a church takes long stints to hire a new pastor. I have heard that many churches across the US have lost at least half of their congregation due to indecision in the hiring process.

Malcolm Gladwell puts this type of decision-making to rest in his book Blink where I will paraphrase, the human brain has just as accurate decision making in the blink of an eye as it does by taking large amounts of time to process a decision. It has been proven over and over multiple times. Take for instance the old adage, “don’t second guess yourself”, especially when it comes to test-taking and trivial situations.


Everyone has heard the phrase, “too many chiefs, not enough Indians”. Often times we bring people on our hiring committee who are perceived as decision makers, as doers. We don’t take into consideration that those people, once placed in the same room together, will act much like a hung jury. This only makes the situation that much more excruciating.

Everyone feels that they are right because they are used to being given decision-making power in their particular ministry. Most of them have never been a part of a hiring process and don’t know how to conducted a hiring meeting.

Many are not sure how to frame the job opening let alone what criteria should be involved. Most will sight scripture saying this should be the only criteria for hiring, which it turns out is a flagrant misrepresentation of those passages. What then? Is there a standard for hiring criteria? Can we say “no” to anyone without hurting their feelings? Do the committees lean on everyone’s input for suggestions of criteria?

Don’t get me started on the interview process.. That another post for another day.


There is a belief that using more criteria in the hiring process will automatically lend itself to a higher quality candidate. Although you may cover a lot of basis for an accurate match to the beliefs of your church, you cannot guarantee that the candidate will be a good fit especially when the criteria may just simply be a mass amount of bad qualifications.

Quantity doesn’t always yield quality. So how can you ensure that you have the right amount of criteria? A better question would be: Can we improve the quality of our criteria so that we don’t get bogged down with the quantity of criteria?

Again, don’t get me started on interview questions and such. I’ll write on that later.


Countless hiring committees have turned to a “more is better” mentality when it comes to interviewing. I understand that the concern is to make the right decision so that the candidate you choose doesn’t end up being a dud, much like a firework that never goes off.

This makes some sense if you are pulling from a resume site or head hunting service but doesn’t make a lot of sense when pulling from your “trusted network”. However, the sheer amount of interviews only measures how well a person interviews and not how good they are as a candidate. Anything above two interviews lends its self to merely measuring the quality how well they can tell you what you want to hear.

Consider this scenario. If a school teaches education for the sake of testing scores, then they are producing great test taking students and not students who can think critically. If all your effort is directed toward interviewing candidates, you are helping to produce good interviewing candidates not candidates who can think critically about how to push the churches vision forward. In other words, quantity is never a substitute for quality. Aim for better quality interviews and learn to trust one another with decision making. Not everyone needs to be in on the interview to chime in on the hire. Refer to number 5.


I have spoken with a hand full pastors who have had success with reaching out to their network of pastors and confidants to find a candidate and have been successful in doing so. However, for the majority of churches this approach can be devastating in several ways because of the underpinning situations we wish weren’t true.

Human nature nearly dictates a lot of our decision making. When reaching out to a network we are putting our trust in a perception that the person we are using as a source has our best interest in mind. This is a misconception not due to deception but more along the lines that that particular source doesn’t set within the cultural context of your church and therefore doesn’t have the same perspective that you have.

Another thing to take into consideration is that there may be a conflict of interest at play in this situation. If that same source needs to hire someone or they are being used as a source for another church, you have to ask yourself, are they recommending the best candidate to me or am I the runner up?

What happens when your source suggests someone and that hire turns out to be the nightmare situation for your particular church? How does this affect your relationship with your source? If networks were incredibly accountable we wouldn’t be reading the same statistics of firing incidents in the church that we see currently.


There is only so much you can tell from a resume. That is a given. In fact, I have heard of people augmenting their resume to seem like they are the perfect candidate for a job description only because they were able to see the job description on a resume posting site beforehand.

Also, take into consideration that there are some slick interview coaches that know how to train people in saying the right things to get the job.

Now, I digress, don’t get me wrong, I am all for self-improvement in the areas of test and survey taking and interviewing. I believe that most people are not good at taking an interview and the main reason why is because we don’t do this type of activity every day. No, I am merely speaking about the coaches who ensure that you will get the job using their techniques. This isn’t improvement, this is manipulation.


Resume sites act as a billboard for your skills. This is old technology that has been adopted from the secular business world where skills and knowledge are the kingpin.This seems a bit archaic when it comes to hiring for the church. It’s akin to the newsy yelling out on the streets that he has the latest newspaper. With a resume site you may be attracting the people who don’t match the culture of your church but they do match the criteria of knowledge and skill level. This leaves a lot of work for you because you have to sift through mounds of people who match your job description as far as skills and they all look good. Skills can be taught but culture and character are really what you are after and resume sites don’t make the cut.


At the risk of being redundant, headhunters are simply old technology that the church has adopted from the secular business world. This works if you don’t mind a remote group of people dictating who would best fit your church context based on statistics. I’ve seen some good come from this process however, it removes the church from the process of hiring.

You are merely trading your in-house hiring committee for another remote hiring committee with the expectation that they can accurately match your church culture and context with a possible candidate. Take for instance a hiring firm from Texas will not have an accurate read on a church in Minnesota. The needs of a Minnesota church will be much different than one in Texas. So, who sets the criteria?


Stay tuned for an upcoming post about using quick results so that your church committee can make more accurate and timely decisions.


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