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Need a seminary graduate with ministerial experience who is eager to serve as senior pastor of a church with 1,000 members or more? No problem.

A posting for such a position can draw anywhere from 50 to 200 applicants, said Don Goehner, president of the Goehner Group, a California-based consulting firm for Christian organizations.

But need a senior pastor with the right combination of preaching talent, administrative expertise, and people skills to succeed?

Despite a surplus of job seekers posting resumes on websites such as, finding such a pastor can be extremely difficult, said Goehner, whose firm recently searched for lead pastors for three large evangelical churches.

"The seminaries are not preparing guys to pastor large churches," Goehner said. "Usually, where these pastors fail is not in their preaching. … It's in the issue of management."

The mere existence of pastor search firms—which can earn $40,000 or more for a successful hunt—underscores the difficulty of filling such positions, said John Cionca, professor of ministry leadership at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul.

"A lot of it depends on how flexible you are," Cionca said. "If you're looking for someone who is a complementarian, a premillennialist, and 40 years old with senior pastor experience who is also a member of your denomination, then that is almost impossible to find."

Cionca and other Christian leadership experts agreed that there are few available pastors with the experience and skills necessary to lead large churches.

Serving in such a role has become much more complex, said Scott Cormode, professor of leadership development at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.

"We ask more of our senior pastors than we ...

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August 2009

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