Picture this: Your church has decided to hire a new staff member. Since this is a big decision, it’s probably best made with the input of a group of people who have insight into what the ministry, and the church, needs. This group of people, the search team, often has the same goal: to find the best candidate available to serve the ministry for years to come. 

So, how do you choose the members of this search team? 

Here are some questions to help you start creating a short list of potential candidates for your search team:

Who knows the ministry well?

You want stakeholders at the table who hold both a vested interest in the ministry along with an understanding as to how the ministry fits with the larger church and aligns in mission. 

Who has interviewed, hired, or supervised others?

If you’re hiring for a role that will be responsible for building a team or overseeing other staff, it can be helpful to have someone on the search team who can assist in vetting the characteristics and skills uniquely needed for this responsibility.

Who has worked in human resources?

Previous hiring experience is not required to be a search team member and, yet, useful insights can be garnered from professionals in your church who are familiar with the dynamics of employer-employee relationships. 

Who has a sense of discernment, the ability to see God at work?

Meeting candidates who can give the right answers to practical questions is one checked box but getting a sense of a person’s spirituality and ability to lead from a place of faith is another. If there’s someone in your church who reads people well, and who has a voice and wisdom others value, they might be worth inviting on the team.

Who has the best interest of the ministry in mind?

Let’s say you’re searching for a new youth minister and a candidate comes along who can also lead worship. Many would see that individual as an enticing hire because of the expanse of their skills and the multiple areas in which they might be able to serve. But wise voices on the team, who have the best interest of the ministry in mind, will speak caution, aiming to ensure that the person hired has a passion for the primary ministry of focus, rather than someone who can answer the question, “what else can they do?”.   

Who is eager to participate in a process of discerning what is best for the ministry?

Stakeholders who are knowledgeable about the present state of the ministry are an immense help when it comes to determining how quickly a leader will be able to hit the ground running. You also want people on the search team who have the ability to see beyond the now and assist in deciphering whether or not someone’s approach has the potential for long-term success.

Who plays well with others, and acknowledges that there is no I in TEAM?

When building a search team, double-check that the collective can work together. If your experience would suggest that someone on your list will dominate conversation, be unswayed by others’ contributions, or struggle to hold team discussions and interview outcomes in confidence, this is not the team for them.

By now you probably have a strong short list of potential search team members. (If not, go back to the top and answer the questions by writing real names on a real piece of paper.) As you consider the gifts of individuals in your church, you’ll also want to think about how the team will work together.

Having assisted hundreds of churches in their searches, here are the top traits of the most successful search teams we’ve worked with at Ministry Architects:

They are connected.

The best search team members are people who know people. One key piece of the search process is networking. Simply put, this means your team is willing to tell others (as many as possible) that there’s an open position at your church. about potential candidates. To help spread the word about your exciting job, you want people who are willing to share about the role on their social media, talk about this opportunity at work and throughout the community, and commit to calling friends and family to recruit even more people to share the news. Connected people think about the net you’re casting and want to reach more, which impacts your applicant pool.

They are carefully curious.

The best search team members are those who aren’t afraid to ask questions thoughtfully and follow-up gracefully. Your team will want to select questions that help them get to know candidates and learn insights into the nuances of their skillset and giftedness, while simultaneously ensuring those questions follow state and federal guidelines. (Because there are some questions you can’t ask.)

They can keep information confidential. 

The best search team members are those who are able to keep information about candidates, including their names and other identifying information, confidential. This provides protection for those considering the position and for their families. It also protects the search process by ensuring that, for example, Aunt Jenny doesn’t hear that her niece is no longer considered for the position, causing a potential rift in the church membership as she shares this news with others. 

They care. 

The best search team members are those who can listen to, and respect, the opinions of others. Although options may vary, the search team is primarily in place to gather information, assess the top candidates, and make an informed decision. Caring about the people you’re serving with is just as important as caring about the candidates you are meeting and the one you will hire.

They can see beyond themselves. 

The best search team members are those who adopt this mantra: It’s not my person, it’s our person. It’s a bit like when your child decides to marry someone. Your child’s choice may not be your top choice, but you trust your child to make the best decision. In the case of the search process, each search team member trusts the opinions of those on the search team and makes the best decision based on the whole, not on who might be their favorite candidate.  

They commit to prayer. 

Although there are systems and processes that can help a search move along smoothly, the search is about more than the process. The best search team members are those who will prayerfully consider the candidates and acknowledge that this is not just a slot to fill. Instead, the team will invite God into the process, realizing that God can guide decisions and provide just the right candidate for the ministry. 

While the decision to choose the right search team members may feel daunting, keep in mind that just as God is involved in the search process, God can guide decisions about who should represent the ministry as it seeks to find the right candidate. Prayerfully ask God to provide the right search team members. Consider the skill sets and giftedness of your church members, and invite them into the process to find the best candidate for your ministry. And if you want a thought partner in this work, or would like to learn more about how to search for new hires, let’s connect!

Happy searching!

Ministry Architects Consultant Elaine Pendergrass

Elaine Pendergrass


Elaine comes with a wealth of knowledge about teaching and learning, child development, and children’s discipleship. She holds a B.S. in Elementary Studies and an M.A. in School Administration, both from Gardner-Webb University (Boiling Springs, NC).