All Search Committees are Liars, But Not Intentionally


If you have ever dealt with a pastor or staff search committee, you perhaps noticed a significant gap in what the committee told you during the search process, and the reality at the church once you arrived.  This is known as Search Committee Syndrome — the tendency for search committees to overstate, underplay, hope-for-the-best, or be clueless about their own church.

Search Committee Syndrome affects 100% of search committees according to the latest study by The Search Committee Institute based in Nashville, Tennessee.  According to the executive director, Reverend Ben D. Seevd, “search committees can’t help themselves, but they really mean no harm.”

Try telling that to the pastor who was assured by the search committee “of course, we want to grow” followed by “we’ll do whatever it takes to reach people.”

This phenomenon seems to cut across all denominational lines, and even extends to non-denominational churches that are really cool and have their own baristas.

Indicators that Search Committee Syndrome might be present in a group are:

  1. The group is called a “Search Committee.”
  2. The group consists of men and/or women.
  3. The group wants to find the best person for the job, including the person God has chosen, (assuming that he or she is willing to accept the salary package they have chosen).
  4. The group conducts meetings.

So, there you have it.  By using these four surefire Search Committee Syndrome indicators, you can be prepared in advance when dealing with your next search committee.  Remember:  all search committees are liars, but not intentionally.  That will make the next five years of sorting out conflict much easier, according to Rev. Ben D. Seevd, who apparently speaks both from his extensive research, and a sad personal history.

Caution: there is no cure for Search Committee Syndrome.  Furthermore, it can be contagious, spilling over into Resume Inflation Syndrome, I’ve Got To Get Out of Here Syndrome, and I Hear God Calling Me Elsewhere Syndrome.  Be careful out there.

5 thoughts on “All Search Committees are Liars, But Not Intentionally”

  1. That would be consistent with how the rest of the world operates. None of my REAL jobs in retail ever lived up to what was advertised.

  2. This is a very funny article but, sadly, funny because it is often true to life. Search committees desperately want to do right by their organizations, and they are often afraid if they air all the dirty laundry, the star candidates won’t say yes to an offer. Further, search committees often think they want one thing during the search, but when the hire spearheads that change or expansion or redirection, the reality doesn’t always comport with their fantasized expectations. Lastly, search committees are usually volunteer-staffed and volunteer-driven. They are often emotional, and often uncertain.

    But, it’s not just search committees. It’s search firms too. Many are structured so that there is inherent conflict of interest to the end game, where fees are dependent on one-third of the first year’s cash compensation that THEY negotiate. They get the larger fee – in fact, they get any fee at all – when the search closes. When we founded our search firm, we set out to create an economic model free of these conflicts, and flush with capacity building opportunities to teach our search committee how to behave in the way that not only brings on the best hire, but helps transition them from status of successful candidate to successful employee.

    The issue isn’t lying, it’s lack of knowledge of how to act in a situation that is transitional, emotional, and often scary. Yet, without honest conversations, all the work of that search committee is for naught.

  3. Laura, I started to write a serious article, but I quickly realized that this was a delicate subject that needed humor. Reality is sometimes easier to take that way. Thanks for your comments and for the work you are doing to bring an ethical dimension to what can be a questionable process. -Chuck

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