Ten Steps for Vetting Your Next Pastor

Recently a small Louisiana Baptist church began the process of seeking a pastor. Resumes were received from all over the region, and a few from as far away as Missouri, but one candidate caught the attention and interest of the search team.

His resume more than impressed the search committee. He had a doctorate and was working on another overseas. He previously served declining churches who (apparently) experienced revitalization.

The pastor search team had an initial conference call with the candidate and began formulating a time for a visit. Since the candidate was from a neighboring state, they knew this would take some planning. During this time after the interview the team began to do some more digging on the web and strangely, they couldn’t find any of the churches on his resume. His two recommendations gushed over the phone about his ministry but the churches seemed invisible.

After more digging there wasn’t even a shred of identification connected with his name. Finally, researching his last name brought the committee to an alleged con-man who had been reportedly been outed as an arsonist and a fraud. People previously connected to the man accused him of falsely claiming to be a first responder in New York City during 9-11. They even found evidence that he had spoken in public schools and distributed flags that he claimed were from places near the Twin Towers.

With a few simple tools, the committee was able to match the candidate’s address to the address of this sketchy figure. Thankfully, another small church dodged a bullet.

Stacy Morgan and Bill Robertson of Louisiana Baptists offer a number of tools to help churches who are beginning to search for a new pastor. Here are the top ten recommendations.

  1. One committee member should call all the references for a given pastoral candidate. It allows him/her to listen for nuance, pauses, hesitations, etc. that may go unnoticed if multiple people are making the calls.
  2. Compile a list of questions you plan to ask each reference. (See the free PDF Here)
  3. Contact the newly-discovered references and ask the same questions. Go at least three levels deep.
  4. Resist the temptation to call references from the church in which the candidate is currently serving without discussing it with the candidate beforehand. In many cases it is best to contact these references at the “eleventh hour” so as not to create a problem for the candidate in his church.
  5. Contact the Director of Missions for the association in which the candidate is currently serving.
  6. Secure written release forms from the candidate to conduct a nationwide criminal background check and a credit check. The church’s local banker can run the credit check with written authorization. (This could be another committee member.)
  7. One committee member with some technological skills should review the candidate’s social media footprint to discover what he is passionate about and identify any areas of concerns.
  8. Those gathering information should report back to the committee the nature and content of the conversations and any concerns that have arisen.
  9. The committee should prayerfully draw conclusions and determine whether to pursue this candidate further.
  10. If the committee decides not to pursue the candidate further, this should be communicated to the candidate.

ONE LAST NOTE: Since this process requires much time and effort, it is best not to check references until later in the process when the committee has settled on a particular candidate. Check his references, prayerfully make a decision, and then move forward with the candidate or move on to the next candidate.

Check out this conversation on Pastor Search Tips and Security with Stacy Morgan: