5 Traits I Look for in Potential Pastors

by Rick Whitter

As a denominational leader with many responsibilities, none is more important than that of appointing pastors to local churches. The futures of the church and the pastor are at stake. So, many considerations come into play. The expectations of the church certainly are considered. In a recent discussion with a local church leader, he told me that they wanted a pastor with “all the gifts and talents.” I informed him that that pastor did not exist, and if he did, he wouldn’t go to that church!

As we assess potential pastors, we look for talent and good work ethic and a winsome personality. We hope for a balance between confidence and humility; a blending of charisma and teachability. Credibility and authenticity are crucial and I always check references. Obviously, spiritual maturity and knowledge of the Word of God are non-negotiables.

For the prospective pastor, candidating for a new church can be an intimidating and exasperating experience. I have created this simple list to assist with this process. Here are 5 things I consider when assessing a potential pastoral candidate:


I have to see that the individual being considered is a hard worker and energetic in fulfilling their calling. Without going overboard, one must be driven in order to succeed in ministry. Godly ambition will fuel a pastor’s vision. The old jokes about pastors working only one day a week are just that—old jokes. When I meet an individual with a white-hot passion for God and His church, my interest is piqued. We need leaders who are willing to do whatever it takes to see the church succeed.

Healthy Family Life

If a pastor’s marriage is weak, their leadership effectiveness will suffer. While pastors are not always to blame for marriage troubles, church members desire a model of a godly marriage that they can emulate. While we can be examples of how to navigate family struggles, the Bible is clear about the necessity of a strong family for the pastor (1 Timothy 3:5). I’ve said for years, “Family is first ministry.” If it’s not good at home, it will not be good at church.


Cowardice is not a personality trait of a good pastor. Paralyzing fear will prevent a pastor from walking by faith. If a person displays an aversion to risk taking, I am hesitant to consider them to lead a congregation. Our desire for a predictable future and an affinity for our comfort zone just may eliminate us from being a spiritual leader. We need leaders who are not apologetic about leading with backbone. God, give us courageous pastors!


I look for bright, well-informed pastors. While academic training is helpful (and the lack is sometimes an indication of laziness), we need pastors who are culturally savvy. Creativity, imagination, and the ability to innovate are important skills for today’s pastors. If a pastoral candidate is not reading and not in a deliberate process of improving their leadership skills, I probably won’t consider him for a progressive opportunity.

Spiritual Depth

None of the traits listed above are of any value unless the potential pastor has a fervent and thriving relationship with Christ. We are told in Scripture that leaders should not be novices or new believers (1 Timothy 3:6). While we want that church members to be fully devoted disciples of Christ, the pastor must lead the way. Spiritual disciplines such as prayer and Bible study are a must for pastors. Indicators of spiritual immaturity are red flags for people in the position of matching pastors with churches. Pastors must be able to repeat the words of the Apostle Paul, “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

I have told many pastors that among the most important decisions they will make are leadership appointments. One flawed assignment and the church can pay the price for many years. This truth is magnified when considering pastoral assignments at a church. I take this responsibility very seriously; I’m sure you can see why. The conclusion to the matter is this: The church is God’s business. Important decisions such as who will serve as the pastor must be directed by God. Trust Him to place you right where you belong.

This article was used with permission from ChurchPastor.com.