The Search


Search Churches


Kick-Off Meeting BL






Search Training BL






Preacher Suggestion Form BL






Interviews BL






Reference Form BL






Preacher-Church Contract BL copy






Interim Minister Contract BL







Search Preachers

Questions for Elders RL






Preacher Interview RL






Staff Interview RL

Organizing for the Search


      The search is preceded by a self-study for the church as a whole and for each individual to think inwardly, to reflect and to communicate their thoughts on the present state of the church, and to tell the strengths needed for the next preacher at this congregation.  In my first sermons during the interim, I repeat, “One of the best ways to get a good preacher is to be a good Christian.”  I plan to discuss these two topics in future newsletters:
1. Self study.
2. Preaching during the interim.

Search Committee

     The search begins with a Search Committee of about twelve people composed of a cross section of the congregation, chosen by the elders to begin the process.  They process résumés that come to the church, receive suggestions from the congregation, and actively pursue possible preachers.

    The internet provides a confidential, inexpensive, and non-confrontational way for preachers to “try out.”  Anyone, including the committee and other interested members of the church, can listen to sermons, find out biographical information, and observe the work of the congregation where the preacher presently serves without any travelling or upsetting the considered preacher or his congregation.

      The Search Committee listens to sermons, reads résumés, and conducts a phone interview.  During this time, they are selecting about four men they consider to be the best match for this congregation at this time.

Interview Committee

      The Interview Committee is composed of about twelve people, including two elders.  They receive all information gathered by the Search Committee and begin to do a more in-depth investigation.  This includes checking references, inviting the preachers and wives to our town, and a more lengthy interview.  I was impressed the Sunday afternoon I sat with this committee as they interviewed me in a practice run before the “real preachers” came in.  This group will recommend the best candidate to the elders.


      The final candidate will come to Cookeville.  He will preach, interview with the entire eldership, and interact with the staff and congregation.  After this visit, we hope we have found the preacher that will serve this church for years to come.

     The disadvantage of this process is the amount of time it takes.

    The advantage of this process is the amount of time it takes.  Interim ministry is not fill-in preaching until you find another preacher as fast as you can.  The concept of interim ministry is that is takes time to adjust to the loss of one relationship before you can build another relationship effectively.

     Another advantage is that at Collegeside, about ten percent of the people who filled out a self study participated actively in the search process.  Thirty-three people were either on the Search Committee, Interview Committee, or serve as an elder.

— Jerrie Barber

Search Training

Training for the Search


     I begin the training process with some presuppositions.

  •  I believe God loves His church.  Jesus built it and died for it (Matthew 16:18; Acts 20:28).  God is not only concerned about the church universal but each congregation individually.  Several letters of the New Testament are to local groups of believers.
  • Since God loves His church and wants the best for it, we should invite Him to be part of this process.  Remind yourself and others that His wisdom is available to those who pray for it (James 1:5) and work for it (Proverbs 2:1-5).
  • The process is as important as the product.  Christians on the Search and Interview committees, including the entire eldership, are not just doing a job but you are participating in an opportunity to grow spiritually.  They can learn about God, about others, and about themselves.
  • Each committee should become a group before they see the first résumé or mention the first preacher’s name.  A friend used to say, “I dream of a place and a time where Christians can get together and tell the truth.”  The interview and selection process should be one of those times and places.
  • If one holds back, does not speak his mind, doesn’t ask important questions, doesn’t add helpful insight, or is in any way intimidated or compromised, the group and the church is deprived of group wisdom.  To become a group will probably require several meetings before they are able “to get on with the Lord’s work” of selecting a preacher.  I happen to believe that learning to get along with each other, discussing how we are going to conduct business including how we will settle conflict when it arises, and getting to know each other better in order to “stir up love and good works” is part of “the Lord’s work.”
  • The training day is designed to begin this process.  It’s only the beginning.  Usually a group goes through three stages before they are ready to function:
      1. Forming.
      2. Storming.
      3. Norming.
     My aim is to include activities in the training day to begin those stages. I conducted these training sessions on a Saturday.

7:30     Breakfast.  We start with a light meal.  This begins the group process.  Many things happen when we are eating to bring us together.

After breakfast, I get the group into a circle.  Everyone is facing everyone else.  Everyone is on the front row.

Prayer is a part of our day at many different times.  We pray for wisdom.  We pray for the members of the search and interview team.  We pray for the elders.  We pray for the next preacher.  We pray for the men who will be considered who will want to come but will not be selected.  We pray for this church and the body of Christ over the world.

8:00     Guidelines.  I begin any group (counseling session, Bible class, Family Meeting, Stress Session in a monthly ministers’ workshop) with negotiating guidelines.  Family (group) rules are usually unconscious, unspoken, but understood.  That makes for difficult communication.  I want the rules to be spoken, conscious, and understood.  These are the boundaries that improve the possibility that “Christians can get together and tell the truth.”  “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed” (Amos 3:3, NKJV)?  The answer to that question is, “No!”  Many discussions end in chaos or miscommunication because we didn’t talk about how we were going to talk.  You can receive a free copy of the guidelines I use by subscribing to my blog post reminders: GUIDELINES FOR A GOOD DISCUSSION: how to lead a peaceful conversation about powerful things .

8:35     Mixer, introduction.  The people line up according to birthdays:  January – December.  They get into pairs.  Each person interviews the other, preparing to introduce the partner to the group.  Tell something about yourself and include something that no one knows about you until today.  Each person introduces his/her partner.

8:45     What do you bring to this process?  It is interesting how different people contribute to the search process.  Some are good at calling, recording, leading the meetings, writing letters or emails, asking interview questions, arranging for visits to the congregation, keeping spreadsheets of where each candidate is in the process, preparing sermons on CDs or MP3s for others to hear.  We learn more about that in this section of the training session.

9:15     What will you get out of this?  Each person needs to examine his motives.  “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).  The search process is long and sometimes difficult and frustrating.  Unless there is adequate motivation, the members will get discouraged.  That can result in some people quitting and/or rushing the process to “get it over with” and end with less than excellent results.


9:45     Collegeside church now—10 years from now.  After the break, I bring people to tables with crayons and large drawing paper.  I ask each person to draw a line vertically in the middle of the page.  On the left side of the paper, each person draws his or her impression of this congregation now.  On the right side of the page, each person draws his or her hopes and dreams for this church ten years from now.  After everyone is finished, we come back into the circle and discuss the pictures.  Everyone is learning what others see now and what they want to see in the future.  These ideas will help form what they want to see in the next preacher.

10:30    Book “mustard seeds”.  A few weeks before, I have given everyone a book on the selection process.  During this session, each person shares some ideas gained that may be helpful in selecting the next preacher for this congregation.  Some suggested books for preacher search . The first book I recommend is The Search Committee Handbook: The Step-by-Step Guide to Hiring Your Next Minister, by Don Viar.

11:15     Search Committee, Interview Committee, Elders.  This is where we discuss the job description of each committee and the elders.  Some of this information is found here: Organizing for the Search .  Here is the chart that illustrates the relationship and flow of communication:  Organizing for the Search .  It is necessary to have a clear understanding of what each group is and is not to do in the process.

12:00    Lunch.

12:45     Chain Letter. After lunch, I read a chain letter about preachers I received by email: Preacher Chain Letter .

1:00      Preacher of your dreams—preacher of your nightmares. It’s back to the drawing board for this exercise. As before, I ask each person to draw a line down the middle of the paper. On the left side, please draw a representation of the “Preacher of Your Dreams.” If you could get the perfect preacher, what would he look like? What is the kind of preacher would you want to come to this congregation? This will certainly include something about his stand for truth but also attitudes, mannerisms, and attitudes—both in and out of the pulpit. What should be his emphasis? In what areas would you tolerate weaknesses in order to have strengths in other areas?

     After everyone is finished with that, on the right side of the paper please draw the “Preacher of Your Nightmares.” What would the opposite of the “Preacher of Your Dreams” look like?

     When all are finished, we get into the circle to discuss these works of art and visualizations of our expectations of the next preacher. I allow each one to tell about their picture and their preacher.

     My final question in this exercise is, “What if the preacher of your dreams is someone else’s nightmare? How will you work with others who have different expectations of the next preacher? That is the challenge of the selection committee—whether it is the elders during the whole process or whether a group makes recommendations to the elders for their consideration before making the decision. Will each person listen to the other and will each person express their thoughts and feelings freely to contribute to the final selection?

1:30      Barber’s Bullets for Preacher Search is a collection of my thoughts and observations as I have experienced and watched this process. I express my best judgment. As always, the waste basket is available for anything not worth taking home.

1:45      Evaluation. A good way for me to learn is to do the best I know how and ask others to help me improve. In evaluating the training session, I ask two questions?

  • What did you learn?
  • How can this training be better next time?

     We conclude at 2:00 with a prayer for God to bless the process and bless us to take advantage of this opportunity to grow in our faith in God, connection to each other, and improvement in our wisdom, skills, and attitude.


are we growing, plateaued, or declining?

Before we decide where we want to go,  we need to know where we are. How big is the congregation? “Oh, we run about 250 or 260. Of course, it was Family Day year before last since we hit that number.” “It seems like we’re gaining a few now. The parking lot looked like there […]

Introduction to this Church and Our Community

would you want to work with this church and live in this community?

The first task of the search committee isn’t to hire this great preacher. The main goal of the great preacher isn’t to try to be selected by this outstanding congregation. The great question is, “Do we fit?”. One step in answering the question is for both to provide as much about themselves as would be […]

Interim Ministry Workshop

September 21–23, 2017

What do you plan to do for the rest of your life? How will you use the wisdom you have gained by study and experience as a preacher? For ten years, Gail and I have enjoyed interim ministry in seven congregations. We have continued to learn and grow. We have been encouraged by brethren in […]

Self-Study Survey

What kind of preacher do we want? Will that kind of preacher want us?

Most Christians have an idea of the characteristics of the preacher they’d like to have. If the last preacher was their good friend, they probably want another just like him. Those aren’t available. If they didn’t like the former preacher, someone who is exactly opposite him would be good. There’s none of those. Most want […]

Between Preachers Has Completed a Year!

Thank you

Thank you for your encouragement during this first year of Between Preachers blog. Your reading, “liking” on Facebook, commenting, and emails have been helpful. I am asking three favors: Request #1. Please take a few minutes to fill out this 2-page survey. It’ll help me understand who’s reading, what’s been helpful and not helpful, and […]

How Long Will it Take?

why can’t we just get on with the Lord’s work?

It was my first day as interim preacher at this congregation. I taught Bible class, preached Sunday morning and Sunday night. We were having a Family Meeting after evening services. After setting rules of discussion, it was time for questions. A good sister was ready: “Brother Barber, nothing against you, but I don’t think we […]



Phone InterviewPulpit Minister Interview QuestionsLetter to ApplicantLetter of Regret

Phone Screen Interview Questions for Search Committee

Instructions: Each member of the committee should have a copy of these questions. Carefully choose from the following list the questions that your committee feels are pertinent to your church. Check the questions that you would like to ask. The list is not intended to be exhaustive, or to be used in its entirety, or in a particular order, although it could be. Take notes during the interview and rate the candidate on a scale of 1 to 5 for each category. Once the interview is over, transfer your scores to the Interview Summary.

Name of Candidate: _________________________________ Date: ________________


  1. Goal is to establish common goals, values and expectations with candidates.
  2. Tactics: Using questions such as those identified below, invite personal stories (e.g., don’t ask “what would you do if…” but ask “what have you done when…”)

Questions to consider for Candidates during Search Committee interviews

  1. Introductory Questions (Break the ice and get some general information.)
    1. Describe your current church, your responsibilities in your current position and results that have been achieved?
      What do you know about our church?
      Can you tell us a little about yourself?
      Why did you choose the schools you attended? How have they shaped your thinking and values?
  2. Bible Scholar Questions (Determine how he sees and uses the Bible.)
    Probing questions on critical issues: describe interpretation of role of women in church/music/baptism etc.
  3. Intrinsic Motivation Questions (Identify sufficient skills/energy to work toward excellence.)
    1. When you have been in a leadership role, what have been your biggest disappointments?
    2. Why did you choose to work in the ministry?
    3. Which tasks in pulpit ministry bring energy and joy in your life?
  4. Ministry Philosophy Questions (Identify sufficiency of understanding of demands/functions/roles roles of pulpit minister job.)
    1. What do you view as the primary (most important) priorities as a minister?
    2. What issues, concerns and attitudes are dominant in your current church?
    3. What ways have you given leadership to the church in evangelism and church growth?
    4. Why do you believe that the context for this church is the right setting for you in and your family to minister?
    5. Who is your ministry role model?
    6. Name a few churches that you think follow your philosophy of ministry. Why?
    7. What does your ideal church look like?
    8. Tell us about one thing that has happened at your current job that is good example of your philosophy.
  5. Relationship Questions (Determine how he will interact with others, including minister peers.)
    1. What advantages and complexities do you see from working with a large ministerial staff like ours?
    2. Where do you see youth ministry fitting into the total life of our congregation?
    3. What are your strengths as far as people skills are concerned?
    4. Tell us about your leadership style.
    5. Have you ever been in a situation with a strong-willed individual whose ideas were not compatible with your vision? How did you resolve those differences? Would you handle it differently now?
  6. Job Performance Questions
    1. What have you learned at your current church that will help you be an even better leader here?
    2. Why are you leaving your present job?
    3. What did you like/dislike about your current job?
    4. What would your current employer say about you?
    5. Briefly explain the circumstances surrounding your ministry changes in the past.
    6. What are the main factors for why you are open to a possible ministry change to our church in the future?
    7. Describe your experience in working with a budget.
  7. Education Questions
    1. Have you had any other special training?
    2. Have you attended any relevant conferences or seminars?
    3. Cite some of your publications and speaking engagements.
    4. What was the most valuable aspect of your college education?
    5. What are a few books related to your field that you have read in the past years.

Any additional notes or comments:

Phone Interview — PDF

Phone Interview — Word

Interview Summary Chart

Pulpit Minister Interview Questions

Applicant: ____________________________________ Date: _________________

  1. Tell us about yourself and your family (not your education or work experience, but about you the person.)
  2. Briefly discuss your education and work experience, how you came to be employed at each place, what you accomplished, and why you left each place.
  3. Please tell us about your conversion.
  4. What are your gifts and how have you used them?
  5. Discuss your involvement in the community where you presently serve.
  6. Tell us about your mentors and name some ministers in the church that you highly respect and explain why.
  7. What are some things you do to ensure you are growing as a person, minister, and leader?
  8. How would you describe your leadership style?
  9. What are your specific beliefs regarding:
    1. Baptism.
    2. Divorce and remarriage.
    3. Role of women in the church.
  10. Give an overview of a sermon series you have preached and what is the most difficult sermon you have preached?
  11. How would you react if a member came up to you publicly after a sermon and harshly criticized you about its Biblical accuracy or about a life application point you had made?
  12. When was the last time you were really upset about something that occurred at church?
  13. Which version of the Bible do you prefer using and why?
  14. How do you feel about a congregation having a vision and can you share visions of previous congregations?
  15. What do you recall from having studied the Member Survey? What excites you and concerns you the most about the survey?
  16. The congregation, in the survey, favors developing deeper spiritual relationships, sharing the gospel with the unsaved, meaningful worship experience, and helping members discover their own gifts for ministry and service. What do you see the preacher/minister role in accomplishing these things?
  17. What do we, as a congregation, need to do to fulfill our Christian ministry – individually and in a congregational setting?
  18. In a congregation as large as this one, there are a diversity of beliefs, backgrounds, and thoughts on how we function as a group of Christians. How would your sermons satisfy these wide-based needs?
  19. What do you think constitutes a meaningful worship service, and what is the preacher’s role in this (or how does the sermon contribute)?
  20. How do you balance your sermons between “first principles” to reach the unsaved and “Christian growth” principles to encourage members with a range of growth stages?
  21. How do you approach more doctrinal subjects from a “truth standpoint” without it coming across as just “Church of Christ” doctrine or heritage view?
  22. Do you feel that “small group” meetings in addition to corporate worship and Bible study times have a role in Christian growth? How can they be accomplished without being viewed as dividing the congregation?
  23. How important do you feel communications are to congregational unity? How does the preacher/minister fill a role in encouraging better communications?
  24. How important is the conduct of the minister’s daily life as an example to the congregation in addition to the sermons and lessons he would present?
  25. How much of a role do you feel a preacher should have in “church management” in a congregation the size of this congregation, versus the role as preacher, teacher, evangelizer, and encourager?
  26. What is your policy/practice regarding doing funerals?
  27. Describe your current schedule for a typical week and how much of this time do you think is appropriate to spend in the church office?
  28. How often do you visit hospitals nursing homes, and shut-ins?
  29. How would describe your working relationship with other ministers and staff members in your previous and current workplaces?
  30. Have your received regular performance appraisals at your present or past congregations? If so, please summarize those for us. To follow up, what would your current shepherds tell us about your strengths and weaknesses?
  31. What is the worst thing we could find out about you when doing a detailed background check? Have you ever filed bankruptcy, defaulted on a loan, been taken to court or taken someone else to court?
  32. If evaluating your own spiritual and personal areas of growth, what would you change about yourself and what could we do to help you?
  33. What is your understanding of the role of elders?
  34. Describe what you consider to be an ideal working relationship between the pulpit minister and the elders.
  35. Please discuss any spiritual understanding you have of a subject which might cause us or our leadership any concern.
  36. What do you consider some of the major problems facing the church today and which of these problems upset you the most, and what do you do to deal with them effectively?
  37. Do you perform marriage ceremonies for anyone who asks you?
  38. What is your philosophy as it relates to counseling?
  39. Describe some new ideas your congregation has implemented that have made a positive difference and what was your role?
  40. How have you dealt with the young professional age group, and what are your ideas to encourage and support this involved group at this church?
  41. Is there a favorite age or gender group you prefer to teach?
  42. Please share our ideas on helping to develop leadership skills.
  43. How many Sundays were you out of the pulpit last year, and what are your scheduled engagements for this year?
  44. How would you describe your congregation’s growth in the past five years?
  45. How important are Sunday night services and how do you prepare for the service compared to Sunday morning?
  46. How do you ensure you maintain healthy balance between church and family life, and does this affect you being available to the congregation after hours?
  47. How involved is your wife and children in church activities?
  48. What are some of the goals you have set for yourself this year and what do you hope to be doing five (5) and ten (10) years from now?
  49. What would you be doing if you were not in ministry?
  50. If you are selected to come to this congregation what can we do to make the transition a smooth and positive experience for your family?
  51. Why should we hire you to be our next pulpit minister?
  52. What questions do you have?
  53. Would you like to make any closing statements?

Interviewer Comments:

Interviewer Signature ____________________________

Pulpit Minister Interview Questions — PDF

Pulpit Minister Interview Questions — Word

Minister Interview Summary

Hometown church of Christ
1122 Street
Town, State 00000

January 1, 20xx

[Insert Name] [Insert Address Line 1] [Insert Address Line 2]

Re: Hometown church of Christ Pulpit Minister Position

Dear [Insert Name]:

On Behalf of the Search and Interview committee, I want to thank you for your interest in being considered for the Pulpit Minister position at the Hometown church of Christ. We will be reviewing your resume and qualifications to determine if there is a genuine interest in speaking with you further. If so, a member of the Search Committee will be in touch with you via telephone to set up a phone interview. We understand the importance of confidentiality and assure you your resume will remain confidential.

We are excited about the opportunities we have ahead of us at the Hometown church of Christ and we trust that God has great plans for you as well. Thank you again for your interest.

With Highest Regard,

[Signature of Committee Member] [Insert Name of Committee Member]

On Behalf of the Search Committee

Letter to Applicant — PDF

Letter to Applicant — Word

Hometown church of Christ
1122 Street
Town, State 00000

January 1, 20xx

[Insert Name] [Insert Address Line 1] [Insert Address Line 2]

Re: Hometown church of Christ Pulpit Minister Position

Dear [Insert Name]:

On behalf of the Search and Interview committee, I want to thank you for your interest in the Pulpit Minister position at the Hometown church of Christ. Unfortunately after carefully reviewing your qualifications and conducting a phone interview with you we have determined that your resume and qualifications are not compatible with the criteria set forth by our eldership for the pulpit position of the Hometown church of Christ. We understand the importance of confidentiality and assure you your time spent with us will remain confidential.

We are excited about the opportunities we have ahead of us at the Hometown church of Christ and we trust that God has great plans for you as well. Thank you again for your interest.

With Highest Regard,

[Signature of Committee Member] [Insert Name of Committee Member]

On Behalf of the Search Committee

Letter of Regret — PDF

Letter of Regret — Word