It is becoming increasingly difficult for smaller churches to find pastors due to a growing number of retiring ministers and a shrinking number of younger ministers willing to serve smaller churches.
Therefore, there are at least six realities that pastor search committees in smaller churches need to accept.
1. It will become more difficult for you to find a quality person to serve as your pastor.
The good news is that God has someone for your church; the bad news is that it will likely take longer for you to find that person. You and the congregation need to be aware of that upfront.
2. It will be unlikely that you will attract a pastor with a master of divinity degree from seminary.
Many individuals are not attending seminary with the intention of pastoring a church. Half who graduate from seminary and enter pastoral ministry leave the ministry within five years after graduation, and many are simply unwilling to serve a smaller church.
Your candidates may or may not have a college degree or ministerial training. Like I did, they may begin their ministry education after they are called to your church.
3. Your next pastor will probably be bivocational.
For churches that have been served by fully funded pastors, this can be a huge paradigm shift.
The fact is that many so-called fully funded pastors were only able to remain at their churches due to their spouse’s employment that provided income and insurance benefits for the family.
The marginal fully funded churches will find it increasingly more difficult to find persons who are not bivocational to serve their churches.
4. If your church is unhealthy or has considerable conflict, it will be very difficult to find a quality pastor.
Believe me, the word gets out when a church becomes toxic toward its pastors, and good pastors avoid these churches. You may even find it difficult to get help from your denomination.
A church that has been dysfunctional for decades recently asked me to help them find a pastor, and I told them that they first needed to determine where they wanted their church to be in the next five years and what they were willing to do to achieve that.
Until then, I will not work with them. I am not going to sacrifice any more pastors to a church’s dysfunction. It’s not fair to the pastors.
We don’t have enough good pastors to send into these situations, and a bad pastor won’t be able to help them.
5. Refuse to settle.
When a search takes too long, there is the temptation to call someone just to have a person in the pulpit each week.
It seems that in every small church there is someone who has a cousin whose father-in-law works with somebody who preaches sometimes.
Why not just call that person since it doesn’t look like we can find anyone else willing to come?
Sometimes these folks do work out, but quite often they bring a whole new set of problems into a church that doesn’t need any more problems.
I repeat, God has someone for your church, and you should never settle for anyone until you are convinced this is the person God has called to your church.
6. Your church needs to offer a generous salary and benefit package to the person you call.
Too many small churches want to see how cheap they can go and still attract someone.
Offer a fair salary that is in line with your offerings and your savings, and be kind with the benefits you provide.
There is absolutely no reason a church of any size cannot give their pastor four weeks’ vacation from the start.
You may not be able to pay a full-time salary, but to be generous with vacation and other benefits costs very little and can express how much you appreciate his or her ministry.
Dennis Bickers served as the bivocational pastor of Hebron Baptist Church near Madison, Indiana, for 20 years before accepting his current position as a resource minister with the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky. He blogs at Bivocational Ministry, where a version of this article first appeared. You can follow him on Twitter @DennisBickers.
Dennis Bickers is a church consultant and author. He served previously as the bivocational pastor of Hebron Baptist Church near Madison, Indiana, for 20 years followed by a 14-year ministry as a resource minister with the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky.