Church ministers are obligated to live by a specific code of pastoral ethics. An understanding of these basic principles will help you in your pastor search. You will be able to ask better questions about a candidate's character and history. And you will be able to show the candidate exactly what you expect of him if he is hired.
According to Wikipedia, ethics means "studying and analyzing right from wrong." Pastoral ethics is, in my opinion, a basic standard of conduct which determines what is appropriate, acceptable, and expected of a pastor both in his personal and professional lives.
Several years ago, Dallas Theological Seminary established the Association of Evangelical Ministers for its graduates. In order for a person to be accepted into the Association he or she was required to adhere to a code of ethics. Though the Association of Evangelical Ministers no longer exists, the code of pastoral ethics is still very appropriate.
The following text is taken directly from the Association's materials and is used with permission.
We are committed to excellence in ministry characterized by:
Faithfulness: to God, our spouse, and family
We are committed to faithfulness to God through daily prayer, worship, and the reading, meditation, and study of God's Word.
We are committed to maintain a close personal walk with God.
We are committed to faithfulness to our spouse through emotional and sexual purity. We are committed to maintaining a strong marriage and strong families.
We are committed to faithfulness to our families through godly leadership, biblical love, and devotion. We are committed to discipleship and training in the family.
Integrity: above reproach
We are committed to personal integrity in ministry in keeping with the qualifications for leadership. We will conduct ourselves in an honest and professional manner, always reflecting the highest biblical integrity in keeping with our call in the areas mentioned in this code. We will endeavor to do right by all people.
We are committed to keeping ourselves above reproach in all areas of life. We are committed to moral soundness, honesty, and uprightness.
Service: with others and to others
We are committed to godly servant leadership. We recognize that we are servants to the people that God has entrusted to our care, following the call of the Master. We are committed to being servants in the likeness of Jesus Christ, exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit as we serve.
We are committed to mutually building up the body of Christ, recognizing and affirming the different gifts in the assembly. In the occurrence of criticism or complaints brought by a member of the body, we are committed to discussion leading to restoration between members of the body.
We are committed to diligently preserving unity in the body of Christ. We will not knowingly participate in the division of any local church. If such division occurs, we will not personally participate in the start of another church in the same locale.
Accountability: to God, to family, to peers, to our ministry
We are committed first and foremost to accountability to God, and to our spouse regarding spirituality and faithfulness.
We are committed to accountability to our peers regarding personal integrity in ministry.
We are committed to accountability to the leadership of the church regarding responsibility and service.
Confidentiality: for the body of believers
We are committed to strict confidentiality in ministry except when information must be released in accordance with state law.
We will seek to apprise individuals of all mandated disclosures.
We are committed to confidentiality in ministry and consider a statement made in confidence a trust not to be shared unless with that individual's written permission indicating informed consent to such release.
Stewardship: within the church and our personal lives
We are committed to good stewardship of what God has entrusted to our care. We will be honest and open in all of our financial dealings. We will promptly pay all debts as soon as possible. We will not use our position to gain any financial privilege or leverage. While we advocate adequate compensation for God's servants, we do not expect or require honorariums for services rendered within our normal duties. We will be careful to guard our hearts against greed and materialism.
We are committed to good stewardship in the church and will be totally forthright in all financial undertakings of the church. We view all contributions as gifts to the Lord that have been entrusted into our care. Our responsibility is to spend those gifts as wisely as possible in continuing the ministry.
Professionalism: to communicate the Word of God effectively
We are committed to accurately and skillfully communicating the Word of God, speaking the truth with conviction in love and will acknowledge any extensive use of material prepared by someone else.
We are committed to honoring our fellow servants in God's household. We will not seek to build our ministries at the expense of other legitimate ministries. We will communicate with the rest of Christ's family to encourage unity and the proper allocation of resources in an area of ministry.
Each ministry and each minister is different. So these principles of pastoral ethics will be applied differently. However they are an excellent standard by which to measure a candidate's pastoral ethics.