Being interviewed by a pastoral search committee can be a nerve-racking experience and grueling process, and rightfully so. The church considering you as their next pastor wants to exercise patience, trust the Lord, and, select the right candidate for the position.
Not only is it essential for the church to be wise in their decision and ask the right questions, but it’s also necessary for you, the pastoral candidate, to interview the church, too.
You may be acquainted with the church interview you, and you may know a few people. But, unless you're involved with the church, then you may not be aware of its inner workings. So, it’s a good idea to lift up the hood of their car so to speak to ask some questions to help you see below the surface.
The questions below will you to collect the information you need to make the best decision you can for you and your family.
#1. Why did the previous pastor leave?
If you ask this question, then be clear at the beginning that you’re not interested in gossiping or slandering anyone. Let the search committee know that you’re only interested in learning why the previous pastor resigned.
When the search committee is responding to this question, listen to the following:
- Did he leave to pursue a new opportunity?
- Did he and the church have unresolved conflict?
- Did members or leaders of the church force him out?
If the previous pastor left on good terms, great. That’s good to know.
Now, if there were issues that led to the previous pastor resigning or being fired, then be cautious—especially if it’s an ongoing problem. You don’t want to walk into an uncleaned mess.
#2. What is one thing that must be changed in your church? What is one thing that must not be changed?
The point of these two questions is to see if you can glimpse into what’s essential for the church. What’s important to the church? What’s not important? See if you can get more than one person to answer these questions. More than one response will help you to get a complete picture.
#3. How would someone who’s not a member of your church describe your church?
Do you desire to reach the community you serve with the gospel? Then the answer to this question will let you know if the church has the same goal.
See if you can have someone on the search committee share with you what a non-member has said about their church. Asking for feedback from a non-member is a great way you can get an unfiltered opinion.
If the search committee does not have a solid answer to this question, then their church may not be active in their community.
#4. Who would you consider to be an unofficial leader in your church? How do the members of your church look to him or her for direction?
Most churches have formal and informal leaders.
Churches will have elected or selected deacons, elders, and staff who take on roles of leadership. What is more, many churches will also have unofficial leaders who influence the opinions of others.
When the search committee answers this question, do you gather that the influence of these unofficial leaders is positive? Or, do you think their position will lead to division?
The answer to this question doesn’t have to be black and white. But, if you do receive and accept a call to serve this church, then you’ll have a better idea on how to lead the church.
#5. What is your congregation looking for in their next pastor?
Did the search committee survey the church? Did they have informal conversations with members to see what they’re looking for?
The search committee may have produced a formal job description. But what the members of the church are looking for may differ from what’s on paper. Be sure to nail down any discrepancies between the two or to identify pros and cons with their expectations.
#6. How is the church’s financial situation?
Is the church experiencing a decline in giving?
Has the church experienced a recent increase in giving?
Knowing the church’s finances will let you know if you’re walking into a stable or unstable situation. Do they foresee a budget crunch? Will you have to make financial changes when you arrive to help them meet their year-end budget? Or, is the church’s finances in good shape?
Are you interviewing for a pastoral position? What questions would you ask?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!