The Surprising Trait that Wins Over Pastoral Search Teams

I have learned a lot about how churches search teams and elders boards look for new lead pastors. In my role as a transitional pastor and transitional coach, I’ve been able to see the other side, not just the side of the pastor applying, but the side of the search teams, boards of elders and the churches and how they deal with applicants.

Sometimes it’s a little scary to see how they process applications and kind of exegete what they think the person is saying, and not always accurately. There’s a language it seems that pastors have, a ministry language that is more like a code that we use which are not fully understood by people who aren’t pastors. It’s kind of left me, in some cases, wondering how does search even happen when a pastor is not involved on the receiving end of the process?

That’s kind of an aside to this topic. I’ve been involved now in the search process for ten churches or so and what’s become very clear, especially in recent days, is that there is a single trait, that tends to bump a candidate up a level in the minds of the search team and board of elders, assuming the person is a reasonable match to what the church is looking for. It’s not an issue of giftedness. It’s not an issue of experience. In fact, for those who have less experience, this trait can make up for a lack of experience.

The trait is self awareness. The search teams, boards of elders and those who are hiring pastors really seem to notice when an individual is self aware. This means they understand who they are, know their wiring, and their strengths and weaknesses. And here’s how it shows up.

If references flag an issue in the life of an applicant and point out an area where growth is needed for the candidate, and then in an interview, the applicant points out the same growth area and steps they are taking to grow it, they prove they’ve got self awareness. That’s almost better than if there was no area they need to grow in. It’s actually better from the eyes of a search team to see that the person has some weaknesses, but they know what they are and they’re taking steps to address that weakness. These steps can be through training or mentoring or building a team around them.

Something that goes hand in hand with this self awareness is of course vulnerability, which is the ability to share your weakness and not to pretend that you are omnicompetent. Omnicompetent is the idea that you’ve got it all figured out, have it all together, can do anything and everything really well, and you could be considered the self-contained ministry machine that. In fact, if self-awareness is very endearing to search teams, facade of omnicompetent does not fly at all. Why? Because any experienced search team knows it’s baloney and, if you actually believe it’s true, you’re going to get blindsided at some point.

I know I’ve shared in the past about my little blind spots evaluation, where based on the lack of self awareness I was seeing in leaders, I invited a whole bunch of people I trusted speak into my life and try to point out my blind spots. I asked them to answer what is the gap in my life that I doesn’t see. It was immensely helpful and has been a multi-month now process for me of learning and growing and addressing. I just attended the Global Leadership Summit last week and there was a session in there that interfaced beautifully with one of my growth areas and helped me in a very practical way know how to grow stronger in that area.

So if you are a applying for a job as a lead pastor, any pastor really, but lead pastor in particular, then I think it’s important that you be very aware of what your strengths and your weaknesses are. Pick references that can actually speak to who you are and identify the gaps and what they say, the real gaps you have, align with what you know about yourself.

If you’re not applying for anything, if you just want to be on a growth curve, do some evaluation, do some inventories or something to identify what your growth areas are. Talk to those you work with, ask them to speak into your life, because if you’re not aware of a current growth area, you’re probably lacking in self awareness and most likely plateauing in your personal development.

So self-awareness. All things being equal from what I’ve seen, people who have self awareness rise to the top. Interestingly, let me land with this thought those who are self-aware are actually overall better quality candidates. It’s not like all things are equal. Those who are self-aware seem like they have not done the work to develop personally. Those who are self-aware have been developing and have been growing and are actually more qualified, even apart from that self awareness, than someone who is not. So self-awareness. Get aware, learn what your gaps are and start growing.

Hope you’re having an outstanding season. God bless, press on.

Leave a Comment