A pastoral search committee (or pulpit nominating committee) is a group of local church members whose responsibility is to screen candidates for senior pastor in order to fill a vacancy in that position. In their search for a new pastor, the committee contacts various individuals, conducts interviews, and prayerfully makes recommendations to the congregation regarding pastoral candidates. The process of forming a pastoral search committee is usually implemented in churches with a congregational-rule or elder-rule form of government.
There is no verse in the Bible that specifically spells out how to hire a new pastor. There are passages that describe what we should look for in a pastor, and a pastoral search committee should make sure the candidates they approve conform to the Bible’s standard (1 Timothy 3:1–7; Titus 1:6–9). But the process of how we are to find a pastor is not specified in Scripture. The absence of a clear biblical directive gives churches freedom in choosing how they select and call a pastor; a pastoral search committee is a biblical option.
The Bible promotes the value of teamwork and counsel from others. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (ESV). The strength of a pastoral search committee is the convergence of various perspectives, skills, and experiences. In a pastoral search committee, one member may be able to spot problems that are hidden from the rest of the members; another brings a solution that the others have not thought of; and others have unique perspectives that prompt them to ask the right questions at the right time.
Individuals who form a pastoral search committee should all be mature, discerning Christians who are committed to their local church and to the will of God. The ultimate goal in finding a new pastor is not to discover the best potential candidate for the position; it is to discover whom God has chosen. When it came time for Jesus’ disciples to pick a replacement for Judas, the selection was not made in isolation. In fact, there were about 120 people involved in the decision (Acts 1:12–26). They all prayed and collaborated on who they felt would be God’s choice, and they agreed on two people—“they nominated two men” (verse 23)—Joseph and Matthias. The “committee” then brought those two names to God and let God speak from there. The disciples’ action illustrates the most important element in the search for a new spiritual leader—God’s will. The primary function of a pastoral search committee is to work together to discern that will.