What Is the Purpose of Your Preacher Search…

Question asked of me on Facebook last week: “When elders/churches/search committees are looking for their next preacher, do they have any Dreams for the Future? Or are they just looking to fill an empty spot?” — Roger Leonard

Here are the purposes of preacher searches from my observation:


For many, the answer is habit. With little thought or purpose, they do it the way they’ve always done it. When a preacher leaves, the searching group contacts friends, colleges, schools of preaching and asks for applications from available preachers. They start lining up men for “tryouts” and select the best one.

The best is the one who preaches the most impressive sermon on tryout day, whose children act the best during the visit, and whose wife is most pleasing. My observation: the weakest link in many preacher searches is checking references. Often when they get to that step, if they do it at all, they want the reference to agree they have a good man. They can invite him and they’ll be finished. A mark of inadequate reference checking is not asking and exploring the person’s weak points as well as confirming and learning his strongest characteristics. You’ll learn both when he moves. It’s much easier for everyone to learn as much as you can before he moves.

Relief from Conflict and the Search Process

Some churches have been in conflict. They think getting a new preacher will solve their problems and they’ll get relief from present troubles.

Others think the time spent in looking for a preacher is “time out” in the real work of the church. They want to get a preacher quickly and get back to “the Lord’s work.”

Looking for a preacher is hard, confusing, challenging work. It consumes many hours and weeks of hard work when it’s done the quickest way possible. When it’s done correctly and conscientiously, it takes much more time.

Please Members Who Want a Friend

The culmination of some searches is to please members who know a friend and his family who wants to be the next preacher.

Get an Impressive Preacher Now

Get a well-liked, entertaining preacher who is available and release the present interim as quickly as possible

Careful, Prayerful, Deliberate, Wise Search

After considering input from the membership, evaluating the present needs of the congregation, and the future of this church, this is the best person available for us. This process takes more time, is more painful, allows more confusion, is supported by more prayer, and should be the most productive for the church in the future.

From my perspective, the first step of the preacher search begins with forgetting about the next preacher and considering ourselves, individually, and this congregation. Are we the kind of people who would attract the kind of preacher we need?

Israel could have entered the promised land years before they did. But God led them through the wilderness forty years to prepare them.

Searching for a preacher, elders, deacons, husband, or wife shouldn’t take forty years. But without pain, thought, prayer, and adequate time, the result will not likely be the best.

Thank you to Roger L. Leonard for the question.

What are your observations about the purposes of preacher searches you have observed?

(Visited 143 times, 10 visits today)
Jerrie Barber
Disciple of Jesus, husband, grandfather, preacher, barefoot runner, ventriloquist

6 Responses to “What Is the Purpose of Your Preacher Search…

  • Jerrie, This is a good post to help “search committees” or elder ships determine a few of their needs.

    After I “retired” I worked with a couple of congregations to help them see preacher searching from a different perspective. I asked them to make a list first of what they “wanted” the preacher to do. Then I asked them to list what they did not want him to be doing. If he did his work well for over 5 years, what should the work look like? What are you really looking for in a preacher? Please do not simply say “We are looking for a sound preacher to do evangelism!” I asked them if they were looking for a young man just out of school or someone seasoned since they had had some damaging issues over the past few years. Since their men were doing a good job in the pulpit and leading in other areas, the next preacher should not come in and disrupt what good work is ongoing.

    I get amused when I read the search criteria in the brotherhood papers as most of them say the same thing even though the work is in a different state, and culture.

    • Jerry,

      I think you’re on target.

      One of the most spiritual things a person, or congregation, can do is to THINK. Often, we habitually do what we’ve always done.

      What you did was to interrupt the habit and encourage them to think.

  • A congregation needs to be sure that they’re not making the same mistake that the Israelites did in their first king (I Samuel 9:2), where they were impressed with his looks and height rather than his heart (I Samuel 13:14). Too many “preacher’s search listings” look at external factors (age, marital status, kids in the home, etc.) rather than looking for spiritual qualities. Jerrie, your approach would refocus the efforts to what is most important.

  • Jerry Stumpf
    5 years ago

    Jerrie, thank you for your kindness. Is this something that you address in your elders workshops? I would think that this could be a topic at a Leader ship workshop?

    • Jerry,

      I mention it in New Shepherds Orientation Workshop.

      I emphasize it over and over during an interim with a church looking for a preacher.