How Church Leaders Can Let Good Candidates Go

by Bob Sutton, Vanderbloemen Search Group

Navigating the steps to hire the right addition to your church staff can take a lot of work. Much time is spent on determining if they have the right mix of experience, personality, theology, etc. Because of all this effort and focus, it can be difficult to know how to deal with the “other” candidates - the ones who are good at what they do, who you’ve interviewed or called, but who just aren’t the right fit for your church staff. Here are some clear steps for church leaders who need to let good candidates go in an honorable and Godly way.

1. Provide Closure

The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps. – Prov. 16:9 NASB

This one should be a no-brainer, but I can tell you from first hand experience that it is not. Church leaders can be so focused on finding someone to say yes to that they forget to say no. Make a phone call or send an email to candidates as soon as it has been determined that they aren’t going to move forward. Despite the momentary disappointment, most candidates find it a great relief when they hear that a door has closed. With every pastor search we complete, emails and phone calls go out to every candidate who has applied as a way of closing the door and thanking candidates for trusting us with the process. If your church has had a phone conversation or a face to face interaction with a candidate, at very least an email is an appropriate way to inform them that the church is continuing to search elsewhere.

2. Give Constructive Feedback

Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. – Prov. 15:30 NIV

Especially if a candidate has been interviewed in person, it is extremely helpful to the candidate if they are given feedback on themselves. As much as we try to know ourselves, hearing an evaluation from a new source can be eye-opening, and help a candidate better present themselves the next time. Also, this is a great exercise for church leaders as well because it allows them to articulate more what they desire in the final candidate. It might be revealing to go through this exercise only to find that the search committee was approaching the candidates with unrealistic expectations.

3. Clarify the Search

Better a patient person than a warrior… - Prov. 16:32a NIV

Are you fishing with the wrong lure? If you have let all your candidates go, it is time for some reflection on what you are looking for. Consider refining your job description or even job title in order to attract the right candidates to the opening on your church staff. If you are working with an executive search firm, make sure to provide feedback to them as well. It will help the search team to know if they have missed one or more details on the candidate or if they are searching in the wrong place.

“This life is not godliness, but growth in godliness; not health, but healing; not being, but becoming; not rest, but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way; the process is not yet finished, but it has begun; this is not the goal, but it is road; at present all does not gleam and glitter, but everything is being purified.” – Martin Luther

As a church, you are privileged to be a part of the process of candidates' personal ministry. You have the opportunity to approach that process with a wide-angle lens, able to see more of the journey these candidates are on. Be a part of refinement. Help polish some rough stones. Help clear the road as we all take part in this journey of ministry together.


This article was provided by our church executive search partner, Vanderbloemen Search Group. To learn more about Vanderbloemen Search Group's recruiting services and how they can help you fill your open position, click here. To read more insightful articles on Vanderbloemen's blog, click here.