Don’t call your next pastor. Draft your next pastor.

The pastor search process might be a whole lot more fun (or funny) if it was run like the National Football League draft. Why go through months—even years—of searching for the right pastor when you just need to be ready a few days in late April to draft the pastor you need?

To get ready, assess the vision of your congregation, and the capacities you currently have in your staff and lay leadership. Figure out what you need to increase the effectiveness of your ministry. Ask yourself, “What kind of leadership will take you to the next level, and where are these leaders?”

Before the draft, see if you can trade some of your staff for other staff best suited to help you congregation soar. Yes, I know you may be tempted to trade away your pastor, but perhaps you need to see what you end up with out of the draft, and then trade your current pastor if you snag a better one.

See if there is another pastor available to your church that might help you stay below the salary cap. If you get to pick early in the first round, perhaps you can get a hot shot young pastor who will demand a big signing bonus and huge multiple year contract that you can then trade to a larger congregation for an associate pastor ready to move up to senior or solo pastor, with an organist thrown in, plus some cash to pay more generous salaries. (The organist is really important since no one in your church currently knows how to play the organ.)

How can you make your church look desirable to the best candidates? How do you get a pastor who can put the fans in the pews? While you can pay a good salary with adequate benefits, what about a signing bonus? You just had to spend your reserve fund on replacing a leaking roof.

Perhaps the pastoral candidate you want is going to be snagged early in the first round. Do you have any staff people to offer as a trade to a church who really needs them, and who has an earlier pick? Or, do you have an early pick and you need to work a back room deal to trade the candidate you pick to another congregation for a couple of their staff and stick with the senior pastor you currently have?

Things pastoral candidates in the draft need to consider are these: In what round will you be drafted? Should you enter the draft now, or stay around seminary for another degree? How fast can you run the 40 yard dash from the pulpit to the narthex? Do you have any spiritual injuries that may impact your ministry service? Should you reveal these or hide them?

Do you need an agent? Do you need to negotiate for free agency after a given number of years in a church? Was that a scout from another congregation in your worship service last Sunday at the church where you are serving as an intern yet was the preacher last week? If you Tebow more often during your sermons will that help or hurt you? Be careful, you can get cut from the team like happened to Tebow.

If a church drafts you that already has another pastor, will you end up on the bench, have to visit all the old people in the assisted living centers and nursing homes, and go on all the youth trips as well as stay overnight at all of their lock-ins? Should your agent seek to get a guarantee from a first round church as to what role you will have in the church if they pick you?

Ultimately you know you will have no say about where you go. Can you handle that? If you can, perhaps you should become a Methodist and let the bishop decide for you from year-to-year. You will have semi-guaranteed appointment—at least for now.

What if down the road you get cut from your church and no other church picks you up? What is your back-up plan? Do you know how to sell insurance? Perhaps you can become a consultant or write the next great American novel.

Have you thought about the dynamic that it is the loser churches who pick first? You may not really want to go too early in the draft. The more successful, larger churches, who may also be the richer churches, will pick later. How can you look undesirable in the early part of the draft, and like a superstar pastor when the right churches come along?

Maybe this whole draft thing is too complicated and we all need to stick with the cumbersome pastor search system. What do you think?

George Bullard

Author's Website
About the Author
George is President of The Columbia Partnership at, This is a Christian ministry organization that seeks to transform the North American Church for vital and vibrant ministry. It primarily does this through the FaithSoaring Churches Learning Community. See George is the author of three books: Pursuing the Full Kingdom Potential of Your Congregation, Every Congregation Needs a Little Conflict, and FaithSoaring Churches. George is also General Secretary [executive coordinator] of the North American Baptist Fellowship at This is one of the six regions of the Baptist World Alliance. George holds is Senior Editor of TCP Books at More than 30 books have been published on congregational leadership issues.

Read more posts by

  • Pingback: Don't call your next pastor. Draft your next pastor. – Associated … | Pastor Leaders()

  • frjohn

    Reading this makes me thank God that I am assigned by my Bishop. The ministry should not be treated as a job and the minister as an hired hand by the congregation. What if he or she has to preach something that is necessary according to the Gospel but will not be popular with the parish?

  • Cindi Knox

    I see the pastor as more of a coach, and we don’t draft coaches.

    Can we see the available lay people coming out of college?