I have the highest respect, love and admiration for those who serve the Lord and His People in the significant role as an elder/shepherd/overseer. My dad and granddad and my father-in-law and his dad all have served in that role. Some of my dearest friends are elders and some of my most significant mentors. So know that none of this is written with an ounce of disrespectBut sometimes elders make mistakes when it come to hiring ministers (I figure they know it and would admit to these innocent errors). Perhaps this will be of some help so some overwhelmed shepherd out there.
They don’t make a mistake of not praying about it. Or of wanting the best man they can get but is my top ten list of things I’ve seen through the years that derail a good hiring process:
They did not treat the previous preacher right: Like it or not, preachers talk and even if they didn’t word gets around and if you develop a reputation of not treating preachers right it will become increasingly difficult to get good guys to want to deal with you. And you ought to understand it - would you move your wife and/or kids to a place where you and they were going to be mistreated by brethren. How do we “treat a preacher right?” It’s actually pretty simple. As an elder you are a parent so you’ll get this. Treat him how you would want your son, your daughter’s husband, the father of your grandchildren treated. If you would not recommend him work with you figure out how to correct that.
They did not cast a large enough net: OK, as the “creator and prime care-taker” of The Scoop Blog I am both baffled and amazed when I hear about an opening for a minister and then am told, but they don’t want it on the blog. Really? So you want the best man you can get, you have prayed that God would help you but you really don’t want to put the info where that best guy who you are asking God to hook you up with is? i want as many resumes, choices, etc as I can get. What is it - you don’t want to take the time? to work that hard? Are you serious about the role you accepted?
They did not make an offer when they found the right guy: Processes are good and helpful. And sharing/communicating that process is great. In fact the MORE you communicate openly and honestly throughout the whole process the better. BUT, when you find your guy - HIRE him. Let the other guys know you did it but HIRE the guy. If he is the first guy you talk with and all the elders are in agreement HIRE the guy. If he’s not the right guy - wait - communicate and wait! But make the hire when you find the guy.
They were not willing to do a little more: This is not home finance 101 and I know you have a budget but if you find the guy you want to hire but are a little away from what he needs to support his family figure out how to pay a little more. Don’t let a small percentage keep you from getting the guy you want. And don’t expect him to take less for the honor of being your preacher. If you don’t think you can do it with the present contribution go to the church and explain, “here is the guy we think can bless us and be a good fit but we need to increase our giving a little to make this happen…”
They did not GO after the guy they knew they wanted: This is a slight twist on #3. If there is a guy you would like to have as your preacher at least contact him and let him know about the opening and try to get him. You never know. I remember dad saying, “You can hire any preacher on a Monday, you just have to find the right Monday.” So you’ll never know unless you ask.
They set “hard core” rules that excluded the potentially RIGHT guy: I’m not talking theology here but anytime I get a “new listing” of a church looking for a minister and it has a bunch of “the guy must be’s…” I see trouble. The best preacher for you might be 27 but will never contact you if you say we are looking for a man between ages 30-45. Or the best guy may not have a degree from a Christian college or be married or have school ages children. It’s fine to say you’d prefer … but when you put it in concrete you shut a lot of doors that could lead to “your best next preacher.”
They hired reactionary: It is my experience after doing this for over 20 years that some churches hire in reaction to their previous preacher. And it is understandable but should be avoided. It’s understandable - throughout the previous preacher’s ministry all they heard were the complaints from those dissatisfied with him - you rarely hear from the folks who loves him. So, if the guy was great at visiting and not as great of a student the next hire will inevitably be more bookish. If the guy was older and moved slower the new guy will be younger and excitable. The problem with that is it does not consider the previous guys strengths or what the church LOVED about how he did what he did.
They sold more than they are: Listen, you don’t want a guy and wouldn’t hire a guy who lied on his resume, who made it look like he was something he is not. Why would you lead him to believe there is no problem when there is one? It’s OK to be the best version of you as you can be - in other words to put your best foot forward but don’t be dishonest to him. If you are it will sour the relationship pretty early.
They thought one guys could do it all: Don’t hire a preacher to “do your Christianing” for you! Folks if the last 50 guys couldn’t “grow your church to 1,000” the next guy probably can’t either.
They did not check enough references: And if they did check them at all they did not ask the right questions. Find out as much as you can about a guy you plan on bringing to preach God's Word to His People.
Let me close similar to how I began this post: I am thankful for elders and for their hearts and great responsibility and how every elder I have ever met wants the best for the Kingdom. Pray for these men and strive to encourage them, not compare them to any difficult one you have ever dealt with and to respect the burden they carry that you will contribute to that only with joy.