Pastoral Search Handbook

Every pastor, church member, denominational staff person, and researcher agrees that this period when a church is without a pastor is a crucial time in the life of a congregation. Decisions are made that move the church to find the person to be chosen for their ministry. It is very important to find the right person. Since each church has unique needs and since each pastor has special gifts for ministry, it is essential that the church and candidates be involved in a process of prayerful and intentional discernment.

One of the difficulties is that often neither churches nor supervisors have much experience in a pastoral search process. Normally, fewer than one-third of the people on a search committee have ever looked for a pastor before. This presents a tremendous opportunity to teach search committees as well as classis-appointed supervisors, who do not function in that capacity very often, a discernment process that will be helpful and effective in their search.

At the heart of this discernment process is a deep and abiding dependence on God’s call. Pastors and congregations are ultimately not involved in “selling” themselves in an ecclesiastical market, but rather in discovering what God intends for them. The call to a particular congregation is much like an invitation to unite a pastor and congregation as companions in ministry. They commit to work together in faith and work together with grace. As one would expect, discerning God’s call is often not an easy assignment.

The Pastoral Search Handbook identifies effective ways to search for a pastor and provides a helpful resource for church supervisors, consistories, and search committees. The Pastoral Search Handbook is organized according to eight steps identified by the Alban Institute in Journey in Search of a Pastor:

• Termination • Search • Early Decisions • Decision-Making • Direction-Finding • Installation • Self-Study • Pastoral Start-Up

The Pastoral Search Handbook is intended for general use. Classis and/or regional synod requirements must be met throughout the search process. The supervisor has the responsibility of informing the consistory and the search committee of those requirements during the process. The quotes at the head of each section of this handbook are taken from Journey in Search of a Pastor, a publication of the Alban Institute.

The Pastoral Search Handbook (Revised 2004) was created through the cooperation of the Reformed Church in America (RCA) regional synods and the RCA's Office for Ministry Services as a general resource for church supervisors, consistories, and search committees.

Printed copies of the Pastoral Search Handbook may be ordered from Faith Alive Christian Resources, (800) 333-8300.

For additional assistance with a pastoral search, contact Ministry Services at: