Hiring Ministerial Positions

By Mike Buster

The most important decision made at a church is not what but who. The process of hiring staff at a church is paramount to its health and well-being. Churches should not just “hire” staff but should prayerfully bring on ministers who are called by God to join a staff team and a church body. Hiring the wrong person will not only cost the church financially, but it will also cause chaos and dysfunction. Bringing on the right team member to do the right job can be glorious for the church and staff team. Either way, the decision greatly impacts the church for many years.

Given the technology age we live in, we have created shortcuts to hiring ministers and even pastors. Churches post openings on job boards and social media, send mass e-mails, and even hire professional search firms. This may work in secular settings, but I believe the search for God’s man or woman to be called by God’s voice to God’s Church has a much different process. Here are the steps I encourage pastors or search committees to work through during the process.

  1. Begin with asking for God’s help. I believe that God has a plan for our lives and for the advancement of a church, which includes the pastor and pastoral ministerial positions. Everything must begin and end by praying for God’s intervention and leading to find the right people for all ministerial positions. Leaders should encourage staff to pray along with the church body.
  2. Diligently seek candidates for this position. This might include:
    1. Asking current staff members for recommendations.
    2. Ask the former minister for his or her recommendation, especially if that minister was successful in the role. Nobody knows the position as well as those ministers who have served in the position or those who serve in the same positions at other churches.
    3. Ask others outside your church for recommendations. Consider Christian leaders throughout the country who might know of viable candidates. Ask them to pray about some recommendations. If you are searching for a student minister, this person might be a youth evangelist or speaker who does conferences/camps and interacts with hundreds of student ministers. If you are looking for a pastor, contact seminary presidents, North American Mission Board, evangelists, director of missions, etc.
    4. Ask those who were recommended but are not interested in the position. They might know of people who would be interested in the role at your church.
  3. Compose a list of viable candidates. Pray over your list of candidates as it is forming. Make a note on each recommendation and conversation. Prioritize the top 10 candidates and do further research. Be patient and remember that the wrong person could set the church back years. Also, always remember that the minister whom you end up hiring— along with his or her family and the church where the person is employed—will likely experience an emotional toll and possible setbacks. Therefore, it is critical that you operate under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Determine whom God is directing you to consider first. Call that person and conduct an interview. In 1987, I was at a very large church in Oklahoma and extremely happy serving as student minister. Dr. Jack Graham called me and simply said, “We are searching for a student minister and I believe you are the person God wants for us in West Palm Beach.” He asked my wife, Joanie, and me to pray about it, and he called back two days later asking when we could visit West Palm. I was impressed with his due diligence—praying and believing we were called by God to go there even before he had reached out to me. Now, it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes God will show you that the person who is your top choice isn’t His.
  5. Bring the person to your church to further discuss the possibilities. Make sure to include as many people as possible in the interview process. The more people who interact the better—not only for added wisdom and for prayer, but also for a smooth transition. If you hire the person, the transition will be smoother if he or she has met various people, especially those with whom the interaction will be the greatest. For instance, if you are interviewing for a student minister position, the person should meet with students, staff team, all ministers, personnel committee, youth lay leadership and student leaders.

During the process, here are 10 things I look for in a minister that are non-negotiable.

The candidate:

  1. Must care deeply about the Great Commission and growing the Church and His people.
  2. Should be so passionate and enthusiastic about his/her calling and area of ministry that it affects the lay people as well as the staff.
  3. Should be willing to do anything and everything assigned to him/her (in and outside of the primary responsibilities).
  4. Must be a team player and not be interested in building a ministry silo.
  5. Should have good people skills and demonstrate how to win friends and influence people.
  6. Must be a servant leader—one who doesn’t have to be the center of attention. The person shouldn’t care about being “prime time” or “small time” or leading out front or carrying the bags.
  7. Should have self-confidence and be secure in his or her own skin. Strength should come from the Lord and not from accolades.
  8. Must be a person of prayer. It should be obvious that the person’s help comes from the Lord.
  9. Must feel called to come to your church. He or she should be excited, thrilled and blessed for the opportunity to pastor or join the staff team.
  10. The candidate’s spouse must be fully convinced that this is God’s will. The two are a team, and the wife or husband should serve and be engaged in the ministry.

While meeting with a candidate, there are few things I consider negative signs, if you will…

  1. Does the person ask appropriate questions? It is a problem if I am the one asking all the questions. An interview should be a discussion, not a monologue.
  2. How does the person act outside of the interview? Place the person in different settings, discern how he or she responds and treats people. You can determine a great deal simply by how the person interacts while touring the church. Did the person show interest in your assistant/secretary? (I always ask my assistant for her thoughts after she interacts with a candidate.) Did the person make eye contact with and speak to all the people he or she encountered? How did the person treat the server at the restaurant or the janitor in the hallway? Did the person introduce himself or herself to people, or did he or she ignore passersby? I once interviewed with a pastor who invited me to play basketball with the staff just to see how I interacted with others.
  3. What about the spouse’s temperament and maturity? It is critical to include the candidate’s wife or husband in the process. Observe how she or he interacts with people. This is a team package, and the wife or husband must be “all in.”
  4. For senior pastor positions, invite the candidate to come in “view of a call” with his wife and be presented formally to the church; allow the church to affirm them and celebrate them. This is a very important step, not only to solidify but also to launch them and to set them up for success in the future. If your lay people and staff feel included and a part of the process, they will support and get behind the minister from day one.
  5. Present a salary package. I intentionally leave this step for last, as I will not discuss this until after the candidate has committed. We are called by God and to serve, and if a minister is not willing to accept a position based on the calling alone, he or she is not called to ministry. The person may be called to students, music, education or children, but he or she is not called to The church should offer a salary package of at least 20 percent more than the person currently has and benefits that exceed his or her expectations. Bless your staff!

Mike Buster serves as Executive Pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church. Follow him on Twitter @mikebusterxp.