There is not much more unsettling for a congregation than a pastoral vacancy. When we are without a resident pastor, our life as a church seems to be off a beat or stalled, even injured unable to run at full steam.
And there are few tasks more daunting than serving on a pastor search team. You feel pressure from within and without. On one hand, your congregation wants a new pastor the day after yesterday. On the other hand, you don’t want to simply fill a position and call the wrong person.
So where do we begin? There is no better place than with prayer.
Let us approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
(Hebrews 4:16 NIV)
Prayer is that practice by which we sincerely talk with the Lord, both individually and corporately, both silently and audibly.
Prayer is that practice by which we lift up our hearts to the Lord, hearts filled with praise and thanksgiving, as well as hearts burdened by sins and concerns for ourselves and others.
Prayer is that practice by which we humble ourselves before the Lord, admitting that we don’t have what it takes to meet the challenges before us and by which we confidently ask Him to provide what it takes.
Prayer is that practice by which we remind ourselves that we are the beloved children of God who not only promises to never lead us where His grace will not keep us but also promises to do more than we ask or imagine by His power at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).
Prayer is the best place to begin. As Jesus prayed before beginning his public ministry, we pray before beginning any important work. In the same manner, congregational leaders commit time to prayer before beginning the invaluable work of seeking a new pastor. They also encourage the congregation to pray, perhaps by hosting a special prayer meeting or organizing 24 hours of continuous prayer in the sanctuary or by developing a prayer calendar.
Congregational leaders will surely begin their prayers with praise to the Lord for the gift of the Jesus, the Holy Spirit, their church, and those called and gifted to serve the church as pastors. They will surely then pray for humility to approach their task fully dependent on the Lord, for wisdom to make the right decisions at the right time, and for courage to make difficult decisions. Then, as the early church prayed before selecting the successor to the apostle Judas, the leaders will pray specifically for God’s help in selecting the pastor search team.
Prayer is indeed the best place to begin a pastoral vacancy—and it will be the best place to begin after the Lord leads a new pastor to your congregation.
Prayer Prompt: Lord, the challenge before us is great, but you are greater.
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.