If you are part of a team or committee who is hiring a pastor, then there are several key things to consider. Hiring a pastor is an important decision for any church, and one that should be made with prayer and thoughtfulness.
Here at Life on Life, we have worked with churches all over the world. We get asked questions about who or how we should evaluate the right pastor for the job.
In this article, we’ll share 3 key questions every church should consider, plus a few guidelines from Scripture about what makes a good church leader.
Let’s get started with the first question.
What kind of pastor do you want to hire?
There are countless different types of pastors, but we find it typically boils down to three primary skill sets:
- Leading or Building the church
More often than not, you will be hiring a pastor who is really good at one of those three things, and passable in the other two categories. That means there are 3 primary types of Pastors you could hire.
First, you could hire a pastor who is an incredible communicator or preacher. His sermons make Scripture come alive and lead you closer to the Lord. That being said, he may not be the best counselor or provide the most encouraging hospital visit. He also may not be an incredible organizational leader either. This isn’t to say he cannot do those things, but they may not be his strength.
Second you could hire someone who is an amazing pastor – someone who is warm and inviting and caring. Someone who counsels people well and provides care visits with limitless energy. And yet, his preaching may be solid and contain truth, but it may not wow you. He may care for his people well, but that doesn’t mean he knows how to build a great church.
And finally, you could go for someone who is a great leader and knows how to build a great church. Keep in mind, a great church is not necessarily a big church, but rather a healthy church. And as with the previous two examples, this person may not be the warmest in a hospital or the most inspirational of preachers. Again, it doesn’t mean they cannot do those things, but their strength will be in building churches.
Each of these three options could be a good fit. If you have a larger church, you may want to hire multiple pastors and have one (or multiple) of each. Ultimately it’s important to remember your church goals, and to hire a pastor that can truly help achieve those goals. And one of the most important goals is our next question.
Hiring a Pastor: Can they teach and equip people to make and train disciples?
In our minds, this is one of the most important questions you can ask when hiring a pastor. Regardless of your potential pastor’s gifting in preaching, pastoring, and organizational leadership, can they equip people to make and train disciples?
Many churches today follow a model of evangelism that works like this: Hire a great preacher, and then invite friends to church to hear that preacher so those friends keep coming back to hear the gospel and become Christians themselves.
While preaching is important and has changed countless lives for the better, we believe it is very important that we embrace a broader view of making disciples and evangelism..
Instead of teaching people to invite friends to come hear the preacher, you want a pastor who can equip people to make and train disciples themselves. This will exponentially increase the reach of the church, and members who can make and train disciples is a key quality of healthy churches.
Equipping people to make and train disciples is one of the primary roles of the pastor, and it takes far more than occasionally preaching about it or posting a sign-up form online for discipleship groups. You have to walk alongside people, you have to invest in the lives of a few people, who will in turn invest in the lives of a few people, who will also then invest in the lives of a few people.
Through this process, we have seen countless churches grow in health and in size as they enable believers to make and train disciples.You can learn more about our discipleship training process, and if you’ve just hired a new pastor it might be a good idea to send him (and a small team of leaders) to one of our upcoming training cohorts.
Qualifications to remember when hiring a pastor
1 Timothy 3 provides an incredible summary of the qualifications of an overseer (which means elder or leader in the church). Here is what verses 1-7 (NASB) say,
It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, skillful in teaching, 3 not overindulging in wine, not a bully, but gentle, not contentious, free from the love of money. 4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil.
You can do a deep dive into some of the leadership qualities from 1 Timothy, but we’ll just highlight a few here.
First, when hiring a pastor you should find someone who is “above reproach” (vs 2). No one is perfect obviously, but a pastor must meet a certain moral standard that is recognized both by the people in the church and the community (vs 7).
Second, your new pastor should not be a bully. This may seem obvious, but we have witnessed many churches confuse “strong and capable leadership” with “bully who bosses people around.” In the long run, this always hurts the people of the church. Instead, the pastor should be “gentle” and “self-controlled” (vs 3).
Third, he should demonstrate his ability to manage his household (and his life and his business) well. Again, this doesn’t mean he will have a perfect family, but it is important that he demonstrates love and care for those closest to him. If he cannot care for his family, then he won’t be able to care for the church (vs 5).
And finally, when hiring a pastor it is important to hire someone who is not new to the faith. He may be excited about his faith, he could have a huge heart for ministry. That is always amazing to see, but it does not mean he is ready to lead a church. Too often, this leads to conceit in new believers and ultimately destruction (vs 6).
There are other items in 1 Timothy 3, and there is also a list of qualifications for Deacons too (if you’re interested).
The bottom line here is, when you consider hiring a pastor, make sure you consider the wisdom and direction of Scripture. It provides great insights for us, even as churches in the 2020s.
Hiring a pastor is an important decision that every church has to make at some point. As you prayerfully consider who the right person is to lead your church, we hope these questions will help you make the best decision possible. If you’d like to go deeper into this topic, checkout the new handbook by Joel Hathaway, Finding a Pastor.
And ultimately, we hope you are part of a healthy church with a great leader. If you would like to learn more about how we train leaders and help build healthy churches through discipleship, then checkout one of our upcoming Information Calls.