The Osgood File (CBS Radio Network): 9/24/04, 1/25/05
A business search firm finds pastors for churches.
A corporate recruiter who cut his teeth during the go—go 90s is now helping churches be becoming a headhunter for the house of God. MinisterSearch of Lewisville, Texas, is offering churches the same professional recruiting expertise that big companies use to find high-powered executives—to help churches find pastors and other staff members. It’s the first, and so far, the only, search firm to offer this kind of service.
Founder and CEO David Lyons started MinisterSearch in 2000. The firm now has seven employees and has worked, so far, with almost 100 churches from more than a dozen denominations, including: Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Assembly of God, nondenominational and Bible churches. Clients range from small, rural churches to mega-churches with membership of 20,000 or more.
MinisterSearch operates on the assumption that using a professional recruiter saves churches time, money and the headaches that arise from a bad hire. “We have the ability to identify and attract better candidates than a church could ever do on its own, because this is all we do, all day long,” said David Lyons. Typically, a church might form a committee of staff and lay people and find candidates by word-of-mouth, and by making calls to seminaries affiliated with the denomination. Then they’d hope for the best. MinisterSearch offers churches access to many more candidates by networking with thousands of ministers. And that pool of candidates includes ministers who are happily employed – but who might be willing to move if the right position came along.
As in the secular world, Lyons says, “Typically, the best candidate is a ‘passive candidate,’ someone who is not actively looking for a job. Most churches would never connect with those candidates.” Ministers can confidentially inform MinisterSearch of their possible interest in other positions – with little chance of ruffling feathers at the current place of employment. Also, MinisterSearch conducts an “intensive discovery process” to help churches determine what they really need to make a good match.
MinisterSearch’s fee is (a percentage) of the minister’s first year salary and they are paid by the recruiting church. Lyons says most churches have learned a bad hire can end up costing three to four times the minister’s salary – due to lost members, lost tithes, and lost momentum in outreach and ministry programs. Lyons says he made more money in the corporate arena, but considers the work of MinisterSearch a ministry – his way of “contributing to God’s kingdom.”
But there are some who say this is part of a move to a more business-like model for running churches. Some say a “corporate approach” to hiring a pastor isn’t appropriate for the work of God. Many churches consider a pastor someone who is “called” to the position rather than simply an employee, and thus are reluctant to move to a more secular approach to hiring. Some say the process risks diluting the sense of “calling.”
Some even say that a recruited pastor might face more pressure to perform – or get fired – just like a highly paid executive. When a church considers a pastor “called by God,” members might be more willing to stick with the pastor should he take an unpopular stand or otherwise “stretch” members in a positive way. If a pastor is just an employee, members might not be as committed to see the arrangement through ‘no matter what.’
David Kinnamon of the Barna Group, a polling organization that studies church trends, says that some churches are wary of business principles. “On the one hand, churches understand that you’ve got to have rules and processes,” he said. “On the other hand, what looks like success by the world’s standards may not be success by ministry’s standards or by God’s standards.” For example, the Bible is full of stories of “unqualified” people who were called for God’s purposes.
David Lyons acknowledges these issues, but says they exist whether a church uses a headhunter or not. He adds that his approach uses a technique that most secular headhunters don’t: prayer. Members of his firm pray every morning and urge candidates and clients to pray as well through out the search process. “We make sure we are always seeking God’s direction in every step of the process,” he said.