Scouting for Prospective Pastors

If you were asked to scout a college campus or a congregation for prospective pastors, where would you begin? What would you like for? During my baseball playing and coaching days, I learned that if I asked a similar question of a scout looking for prospective professional baseball players, he would have a ready response. He would tell me that scouts look for five tool athletes: players who can throw hard, field well, run fast, hit for average, and hit for power. Might those scouting for prospective pastors, take a similar approach? Are there tools that point to a person’s future effectiveness in pastoral ministry? I think so. With the help of friends and students, I have compiled a list of eight essential tools for prospective pastors. Here they are:

1. Since the pastoral ministry involves teaching and preaching, the prospective pastor shall be a gifted communicator who can clearly and persuasively speak to individuals, as well to groups of all sizes.

2. The prospective pastor shall be a leader. Since there are many styles of effective leadership, the prospective pastor best seek to understand his or her style of influence and then learn to effectively employ it for the advancement of the Kingdom.

3. The prospective pastor shall have a hunger and ability to learn. As it is difficult to find an auto mechanic who does not love tools, it is hard to find pastors who don’t love books. They love to read and learn.

4. The prospective pastor shall have an enlivened spiritual life. He or she has a deepening interior life that reflects the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. Before one becomes a pastoral candidate, however, this spiritual life may even be directed in opposition to Christ (Saul comes to mind).

5. The prospective pastor shall know how to get along with people. Some refer to this tool as “Social Intelligence.” Whether or extravert or introvert, the prospective pastor knows how to create and sustain relationship with people.

6. The prospective pastor shall be characterized by emotional health. While everyone has experienced pain in life, and while the Lord often prepares us for ministry through the brokenness we have experienced in the past, pastoral ministry is most effective when it flows from the healed and stable heart of a person who understands his or her emotions – as well as those of others.

7. Prospective pastors shall be like the people of Issachar who understood the times (I Chronicles 12:32). They have what some call “Cultural Intelligence.” A person with high cultural intelligence functions well in cultures other than his or her own by discerning the common values that lie behind distinctive behaviors.

8. The prospective pastor will discover that one or more “intangibles” have prepared him or her for a good fit in one or more contexts. The most important intangible is a strong work ethic. Others include the ability to speak more than one language or experience or a gift in another area (such as music or administration).

There’s my wet-in-the-cement list. What do you think? What am I missing?

Before wrapping up, I add a couple observations. First, do our seminaries train prospective pastors in these eight areas? If not, should they? Typically, it seems that seminaries have focused most of their energies on #3 above: the cognitive dimension of the pastor. Some have also addressed #4: the interior life. Apparently, many seminaries expect students to arrive at seminary prepared in some of the other areas or expect students to prepare themselves in those areas.

Second, many professions seek individuals with these same eight tools. School principals and law firms come to mind. So, if the church hopes to recruit and call prospective pastors whose gifts suggest future effectiveness, we may have to be more aggressive in recruiting prospective pastors. Maybe we should even deploy some scouts!


  1. Rev. Chris Cano on February 20, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    This is a great start to developing the ‘scouting report’ for potential pastoral candidates in the church.

    As I was reading through the list, I realized it was missing what might be the most important factor in determining ‘future effectiveness’ and longevity. Call.

    I remember sitting in class one day at seminary and a pastor came in to speak to us about pastoral ministry. He said, “if you are here and you are not “Called” into pastoral ministry, then stay out of it. Don’t put yourself through it. you would have to be a glutten for punishment to step in without “Call”.

    This statement sparked quite a conversation around the topic of call. Are individuals Called into vocational ministry? Or, does God call “the church” into ministry? Are you called to congregations? Cities? Mission fields? Over the diverse landscape of Fuller Theological Seminary, you can imagine there were many perspectives on the topic of “Call”.

    I guess the question I have here is, what place does “Call” have on this list? How much weight do we give it? If all of these factors show strong in a candidate does that make them “called”? And finally, if they are the perfect candidate and yet have not compelling could pastoral ministry be a threat to them and a potential congregation down the road?

  2. Matt Riddle on March 5, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    I think this is a wonderful tool for search teams but I wondered if one of the points could be even further refined. Particularly, the one I have in mind is the fourth point regarding an “enlivened spiritual life.”

    My question is this: Is there a difference between a growing spiritual life and being a person of integrity and character. (I know many of us who are in ministry ARE characters…but do we have it???) Does the candidate not only have a have vibrant spiritual life, but are they also a person of integrity/character?

    I think that this element is probably contained in point #4, but it is also very different. It may even be that this quality is even more important in a potential candidate than certain ministry related skills. For example, you can grow in preaching ability and can even work on growth in cultural and social intelligence. But integrity is not something that is as easily learned. There are lots of people that have active spiritual lives but may still be lacking in a certain level of integrity and/or character. This also seems to be the thought of Paul when he tells Timothy that an overseer “must be above reproach” (1 Tim 3:2).

    I think that it is essential that a prospective pastor should have an enlivened spiritual life but along with that they must also actively be pursing a life of holiness. In other words, they must be people of integrity.

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