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Pastor Qualifications

As you determine your pastor qualifications make two lists. The first list will include qualifications that you require... that the candidate must possess. The second list will have qualifications that you prefer... the candidate to possess.

The list of pastor requirements might include character issues, skills, experience, marital status, or spiritual gifts. The second may have educational level, that the pastor have children, or that he has employment experience outside the ministry. Or you might want to make all these things requirements.

Creating these lists will help keep you from choosing a pastor based only on his personality. It will also give you objective criteria by which you can compare candidates.

Use these lists to sort through resume's. Then use them to develop questions for those you interview. Finally, use the lists to discuss the candidate after the interview is over.

Consider the following pastor qualifications as you prepare your lists.

  • Character
  • Philosophy of Ministry
  • Skills
  • Spiritual Gifts
  • Education
  • Doctrine
  • Experience
  • Personal Information
  • Leadership Style


Strong, mature, godly character is the key to successful pastoral ministry. If you need to choose between someone who is educated, experienced, gifted, and skilled and a person who possesses godly character, choose the person with character.

Character is about the only pastor qualification referred to in the Bible. Paul made his own list of pastor qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

Pastor Qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7

  • Above Reproach - An accusation of sin won't stick to him.
  • Husband of One Wife - He must be faithful to his wife. He adores his wife and doesn't flirt with other women.
  • Self-Control - He is the master of his behavior. His behavior doesn't control him.
  • Lives Wisely - He makes good choices.
  • Has a Good Reputation - People at church and in the community think highly of him. He is respected.
  • Hospitable - His home is open to others.
  • He Can Teach - He has gifted insight into the scripture and communicates well those insights to others.
  • Not Addicted to Wine - He never gets drunk or over-indulges in alcohol.
  • Not Violent - He resolves conflict peacefully.
  • Gentle - His manner and words are not abrasive ...he has a good "bed side manner."
  • Loves Peace - Is someone who works toward peace in every relationship he encounters.
  • Does Not Love Money - He is not consumed with his retirement fund or the price of gas.
  • Manages His Home Well - His family and home are in order, not in chaos. His children are polite and respectful. His finances are in order.
  • Not a New Christian - He has proven experience as a faithful follower of Jesus.

Other Pastor Qualifications in Titus 1:6-9

  • His children must be believers who are not wild or rebellious
  • Not Arrogant - He must be humble, thinking of others first. He has a servant's heart.
  • Not Quick-Tempered - His anger does not flare up at the least provocation.
  • A Strong and Steadfast Belief - A conviction in the gospel that does not waver.

Character is also related to pastoral ethics.

These character issues should all be required pastor qualifications. They should not be on your list of preferred qualities.

Philosophy of Ministry

A philosophy of ministry describes how a person or church believes it should do church: What is most important? What's the purpose for church? How do we do ministry? What style of worship is appropriate?

There are a lot of words thrown around in churches these days... words that often mean different things to different people. So it is important that you are careful to define what you mean when you use them. It is equally important that you ask questions until you completely understand how the candidate is using them.

I thought about giving definitions for these words. But that misses the point. The truth is that each person defines them a little differently.

Make sure you and the candidate are talking about the same thing. Otherwise, you may end up with a pastor who said he was missional but in reality is just a supporter of the Missions Committee.

  • Contemporary
  • Traditional
  • Blended
  • Seeker-Driven
  • Seeker-Sensitive
  • Expository Sermons
  • Topical Sermons
  • Missional
  • Purpose-Driven
  • Emerging Church
  • Postmodern

Know your church's basic philosophy of ministry so that you can clearly communicate this on your list of pastor qualifications.


What kind of skills do you want your pastor to have? Here are a few that I've seen mentioned in pastor qualifications.

Note: I don't necessarily agree that some of these should be on a list of requirements. These are just a few that I've seen.

  • Administration
  • Counseling
  • Music
  • Working with youth
  • Working with seniors
  • Small groups
  • Conflict resolution
  • General maintenance
  • Financial management
  • Sports
  • One-on-one discipleship
  • Leadership development

Use this list to help get you started listing required and preferred skills.

Spiritual Gifts

What pastor qualifications do you require in the area of spiritual gifts? Pastors possess a variety of gifts. But several dominate. They are teaching, leading, managing, exhorting, extraordinary faith, and service (helps).

Which of these (or others) do you require? Which would be nice but not absolutely necessary?

Some pastors are great at managing the daily affairs of the church but poor leaders. Others love to serve and help others but weak in the pulpit.

No pastor has the complete package. Which are most important to your church?

In my opinion, the Bible doesn't try to list each and every spiritual gift. I personally believe that there are two classes of spiritual gifts: miraculous and natural. Miraculous gifts are speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, healing, and other miracles. Natural gifts are spiritual gifts given to every believer.

I believe that natural spiritual gifts are the Holy Spirit working through a natural human talent or skill to accomplish spiritual results. So when you look for a candidate's gifts, don't limit yourself to the ones specifically mentioned in the Bible. Ask about his natural talents and how God has used those in his ministry.


When it comes to pastor qualifications you will find that pastors come with many different educational levels. You'll need to decide what is the bare minimum pastoral degree you will accept. In conjunction with this you will want to decide if seminary is necessary.

I pastored without a seminary degree. And I pastored with one. In my opinion a seminary degree is indispensable. It gives a person a better understanding of the scriptures. And it develops character as the pastor-to-be struggles with classes, an overwhelming amount of studies, and a job. Add to this that almost 50% of seminary students are married - many with children - and you see that these students learn patience, endurance, faith, and confidence.

These character qualities are just the type of pastor qualifications you are looking for.


What pastor qualifications will you have in the area of doctrine ...what you believe the bible teaches?

Do Not Assume That He Believes What You Believe!

I have interviewed at a number of churches. That includes at least 100 hours of intentional and casual meetings with search committee members. At no time did any pastor search team member ask any significant questions about my beliefs. I initiated all of the discussions about doctrine.

Maybe you don't feel qualified to ask or answer questions about your church's beliefs. That's ok. You could ask someone else in your congregation or even another local pastor to sit in on your interviews. They could be specifically designated as the person who will discuss your doctrine.

This is the most often overlooked subject during interviews. Please...please...Please don't assume that he believes what you believe even if he says he has no problems with your doctrinal statement.

Keep in mind this thought as well...

It is unethical for any pastor to knowingly accept a call to become a church's pastor when he has significant doctrinal differences with the church.

I know you wouldn't want to hire an unethical pastor. So please find a way to talk extensively about your beliefs. Make this one of your top pastor qualifications.


Some churches like the enthusiasm that a recent college or seminary graduate brings with him to his first church. Others prefer their pastor to be tested in the field before he meets their pastor qualifications.

Consider the following types of experience or ways of looking at experience as you create your list of pastor qualifications.

  • He worked a secular job.
  • He had a ministry internship.
  • He was involved in evangelism.
  • He has been on short-term missions trips.
  • He's pastored for at least 5...10...15 years.
  • He's pastored small...medium...large churches.
  • He stayed at his last church at least 5...10...15 years.
  • He led his last church to significant numerical growth.
  • He's led a building campaign.
  • He's helped heal split churches before.
  • He is a church planter.
  • He worked with small groups.
  • He's been a Youth Pastor...Associate Pastor...Worship Pastor or seminary professor.
  • He has served on a staff with multiple pastors.
  • He pastored in urban...suburban...rural settings.
  • He has experience in multi-cultural ministries.

Personal Information

Include on your list of pastor qualifications personal information such as...

  • Marital Status - Does he need to be married? Is it ok if he's been divorced?
  • Age - Do you want a pastor that is about the average age of your church attenders? Or do you want a pastor of an age you are seeking to attract? Or...does age matter?
  • Number of Children - Does he need to have children? If so, about how old should they be?
  • Hobbies - Do you want an outdoors man, a basketball jock, or someone who likes to play shuffleboard?
  • Geographic Background - Will you require or prefer the candidate be from somewhere nearby? Or is it ok if he is transplanted from a different part of the country or world?
  • Accent - If you live in Toronto, do you want a pastor that speaks with a southern USA drawl? Or do you even care?
  • Nationality - Would your church in the UK accept a pastor from Korea or the USA?

Leadership Style

One person's "strong leader" is another's dictator! Be certain you know what leadership style you will make a pastor qualification. And make sure you know how your candidate leads.

He may be a person who will come along side someone and encourage them.

He might be a visionary who stands out front, pumps you up and leads the charge into the future.

He might lead by devoting his time to teaching and preaching.

Or he might be an excellent manager of details.

As you develop your list of pastor qualifications you need to learn what style your church responds best to.

Then contact the candidate's references. Ask questions about leadership style. Describe to the person the type of leader you are looking for.

Then ask him or her whether or not the candidate is this type of leader.

This will give you an idea of the candidates leadership style.


Let me leave you with one point of advice:

Your pastor search will proceed much more quickly and efficiently if you spend the time developing clear lists of pastor qualifications.

If you don't clearly understand your required qualifications you will end up choosing a pastor based on personality.

Once you've established your pastor qualifications, you can move on to pastor compensation.

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