Ok, here is a sad secret I have witnessed in nearly 25 years of ministry leadership. I have seen it numerous times, have never written on it, but am doing so now because it is unhealthy, causes confusion, and wastes a lot of time among God’s people.
Some pastors play games with pastor search teams.
Some pastors engage in ongoing conversations with pastoral search teams with little to no intention of really considering going to the church they are supposedly considering. They make trips, enjoy dinners, fill out questionnaires, look at homes online, and spend months in conversations just to play the game of going through the process. Some ministry leaders flirt with a church search team with no intention of really even having a date. Why on earth would they do this? What is going on? At least one of three things is at work in the pastor’s heart:
1. They want an escape hatch.
Challenges, burdens, criticism, and pressure plague every ministry leader. Talking to a church about another role can provide a sense of relief, as if there is something else the leader can run to. Many ministry leaders know they are where they are supposed to be. In others words, they don’t really want to run; they just like knowing they could run if they wanted to. The problem with talking to a church as a mental escape hatch is that so much kingdom time is wasted. There are real people who are gathering and praying for their next leader, and it is cruel to play games with them.
2. They miss or love or need to be pursued.
Ministry leaders often feel underappreciated in their own churches, so the call from another place can feed the ego. They know that if they go to the new place, they will likely be underappreciated there too, but the conversations feel good. Sadly, this is deeply sinful as these leaders use another church’s search team to find affirmation and approval instead of rejoicing in the affirmation and approval the Lord has already given.
3. They want some of their team to know they are in demand.
Some ministry leaders enjoy having multiple opportunities “in the hopper” at one time because they actually hope some of their leaders or some of their team discovers that others are recruiting them. In other words, they use a search team as a pawn to increase their value where they are.
If you know you are not going to go to a place, don’t waste the search team’s time and energy. Don’t play games with a group of people. Yes, ministry is hard, but don’t use others to give you affirmation you should be finding in the Lord.