Q: The Church of the Nazarene is blessed with many gifted men and women in full-time ministry. Considering the huge percentage of smaller congregations in the Church of the Nazarene, why are pastors of smaller congregations so rarely selected for the role of district superintendent?
A: Questions about church leadership have been around since day one. When the disciples were "tarrying in Jerusalem," waiting for the promise of the Father, they prayed and felt the need to perfect their number to 12 apostles. They "cast lots" and Matthias was chosen to take Judas' place. Casting lots (voting) has been in vogue from then until now.
Some of the processes have changed. Processes are not the same in all denominations. The Church of the Nazarene has a representative form of government. The most common method for selecting district superintendents is for the representatives of all the churches, small and large, on a given district to do it by voting their choice in the annual assembly.
Exceptions exist to this method. Vacancies occurring between assemblies, or on new Phase One or Phase Two districts, may be filled by appointment of the general superintendent after having appropriate consultation with certain district leaders and peer church officials.
This question begs more for a why, than a how, answer, yet the answer is in how leaders are chosen. Persons who have had time to demonstrate their leadership gifts, strengths, skills, and callings are the ones elected. Sometimes those chosen question "Why?" I think Paul did in 1 Corinthians 4:9 when he said, "God has put us apostles in the worst possible place. We are like prisoners on their way to death" (CEV).
Leadership qualities are often seen in the gifts and graces displayed early on in ministry tasks. On the Colorado District many years ago, a young evangelist was elected district superintendent before he was ordained. Years later after various fruitful ministry roles, he was elected a general superintendent. While D. I. Vanderpool was an exemplary leader, others have the opportunity to move from smaller to larger places of service but fall short in demonstrating organizational, motivational, or people skills in smaller places.
I believe that most of the time, on any Nazarene district, the people elected district superintendents are leaders who have qualified themselves for the task by faithful service in other ministry roles. Ministry peers and other representatives on their district recognize their "gifts and graces" for the office and choose them as their leaders.