Question #12

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.
(Proverbs 15:22 NIV)

The time has come to search for a new pastor and you wonder how to go about such an awesome responsibility. You hope and pray for a candidate who embodies the 5 Cs: Character, Competency, Chemistry (fit with your congregation), Culture (fit with your community), and Credentials.

But how do you find such a person?

In recent years, many congregations have discovered the benefits the perspective of an outsider can provide. They have found it valuable to contract the services of a pastor search consultant to coach or guide their search teams.

You may balk at such a suggestion. For decades American Protestant congregations have survived without such help, so what has changed? In short, the landscape has changed so dramatically that the old ways of finding a pastor are not as effective as they were in previous decades.

Perhaps the best way to explain this change is through a comparison to the McDonald’s Corporation. Throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, church folk pretty much assumed that young men and women trained by McDonald’s University (or in this case, the denominational seminary) were prepared to serve any McDonald’s franchise (local congregation) in the company (denomination). That assumption was based on the shared corporate (denominational) culture of the company and on the fact that each franchise (congregation) offered the same menu of services (ministries). In this context, a manager (pastor) would begin his or her career (ministry) at one location (church), stay about five years, and, if he or she did well, especially as a leader (preacher), accept a promotion (call) and move on to a bigger and more profitable franchise (congregation).

Today the context has changed dramatically. We live in a time with an unprecedented number of non-denominational congregations. We live in a time when congregations are shaped more by local context than by denominational patterns and prescriptions. Each congregation, even those that share denominational affiliation, while sharing many commonalities, differs significantly from others in values, rituals, customs, and more. Add to that the growing diversity among pastoral candidates. Even those from similar denominations differ in education, background, theology, culture, and additional factors.

All that diversity makes it extremely difficult to discover the right fit between a pastor and a people. Many congregations have discovered that a Pastor Search coach can be a great help in this area. The coach, alongside a congregation’s Search Committee, will help develop and implement a process of discernment, one bathed in prayer and open to the Holy Spirit, which will lead to the discovery of a new pastor. As a coach, his or her goal is a good match between pastor and people, one that leads to healthy and dynamic ministry.

Perhaps your Pastor Search Team would benefit from a coach. If so, consider ChapterNext.

Prayer Prompt: Lord, help us trust in you with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding.


ChapterNext is a pastor search and church consulting firm led by Rev. Sam Hamstra. They assist congregations through a handful of services, including staff development, weekend worship workshops, leadership retreats, and ministry reviews (vision and mission statements, budgets, building renovation, and marketing plans). These services grew out of ChapterNexts’ founding purpose which is to help congregations turn the page so that they can begin writing new chapters of dynamic and life-transforming ministry.


  1. Suzy VenHorst on October 11, 2019 at 12:08 am

    Our Presbytery “helps” us select our next pastor. We have been “helped” for over 2-1/2 years. But we do love our interim.

    • Sam Hamstra on October 11, 2019 at 12:53 pm


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