So You’re Calling a Pastor: Help for Pastor Search Committees
Church Life, Healthy Leaders, Healthy Churches, Leadership Development

So You’re Calling a Pastor: Help for Pastor Search Committees

Many times (more often than not), people elected to serve on Pastor Search Committees don’t have the experience, nor are they trained, to know what questions to ask a potential candidate. Good people are often taken in by a manipulative or savvy candidate only to discover a few months down the road what a disaster they have installed as their pastor. To try and avoid these pitfalls, and having worked with many committees, I’ve tried to compile a list of questions a Pastor Search Committee may consider while interviewing candidates.

Please note: Some questions are self-explanatory and do not require answers, some will require responses directly from the applicant. Please select only those questions that work best for your church. Remember whatever you do, make this an enjoyable experience for the candidate, the church, and yourself!

Doctrine and Issues

  1. In sixty seconds or less, what is the Gospel?
  2. Do you believe the Bible is the Word of God? What is your view of the Bible’s authority and historical reliability?
  3. What would you say to someone who asked you how to become a Christian?
  4. Describe your understanding of Jesus’ death and its benefits for us?
  5. Do you think Jesus is the only way to God and salvation? Why? Why not? Where does this leave the people of other faiths?
  6. What do you think happened on Easter morning? Describe your understanding of the resurrection body of Jesus?
  7. What do you think is the ultimate destiny of the human race?
  8. What is your understanding of divine judgment?
  9. Describe your understanding of divine grace?
  10. Describe your understanding of baptism? Do you believe in infant baptism? Adult baptism?
  11. What doctrines need more emphasis today?
  12. What role does God’s sovereignty play in human salvation?
  13. Do you believe that the events described in Genesis 1-11 are factual or symbolic? Are they good stories or good history?
  14. What is your view on evolution?
  15. What is your view of the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer? Discuss gifts of the spirit, including speaking in tongues and prophecy.
  16. Do you believe miracles are possible today?
  17. Are there any points in our doctrinal statement that you would not or could not affirm?
  18. Is there anything in our Bylaws or Constitution you would want to change?

Leadership

  1. Why do you believe God is calling you to be a pastor?
  2. What is your passion in ministry?
  3. How would you describe a successful pastor?
  4. What types of pastoral experience have you had? Youth? Associate? Solo? Head of Staff? Senior?
  5. Do you have a Statement of Faith we can look at?
  6. How would you describe your philosophy of ministry?
  7. What are the chief responsibilities of the pastor?
  8. What role does preaching play in your overall ministry?
  9. How would you describe your leadership style: laid back, hands on, CEO, missional, chaplain, enabler, etc.?
  10. Do you believe that church member should be an active part in the ministry of the church?
  11. How do you define evangelism and what is its role in your ministry? How would you lead others to do evangelism?
  12. Describe your counseling style? Are you comfortable counseling?
  13. When you have met with opposition, has it been mostly related to your style of leadership, your personality, your beliefs, or something else?
  14. Describe any previous experience in determining long-range goals and other types of planning activities.
  15. Describe your philosophy of ministry for equipping the body.

Church

  1. How would you describe a successful church?
  2. What is the purpose of church membership?
  3. What are some of the things you would do to create a healthy congregation?
  4. What makes a church grow?
  5. How would you encourage Christian community and fellowship in church?
  6. What form of church government and leadership are you committed to? Why?
  7. How would you describe the lines of authority among church leaders?
  8. How would you describe your administrative style? How much freedom do you allow other church leaders?
  9. What is your opinion on contemporary worship?
  10. How do you feel about theatrical productions, multi-media presentations, etc.?
  11. What is your view on worship music?
  12. How would you define “Seeker Sensitive,” “Seeker Driven,” “Emergent Church,” or “Missional Church?” What is your preference?
  13. What is your strategy for missions? What are some of the latest trends you have observed in missions today?
  14. Do you have any experience with small group ministry? Is it important to the life of the church?
  15. What is your view on children and youth in worship? How important are children and youth to the life of the church?
  16. How comfortable are you relating to children and youth? Have you ever worked with them?
  17. How have you included children and youth in worship?
  18. How important is a single adult ministry to your plan for the church?
  19. How do you see retired people and seniors fitting into the ministry of the church?

Additional Questions

  1. Would you want to lead this church into some other denomination or affiliation with some other organization?
  2. Have you ever served in an international or multi-cultural setting before?
  3. Have you worked in a non-denominational/interdenominational church before?
  4. What languages do you speak?

Issues Facing the Church

  1. Describe an instance when you made attempts to change something in the church? What was it? What were the results? What did it cost you personally?
  2. Would you permit someone in leadership who is living together outside of marriage?
  3. What is your view of divorce and remarriage?
  4. Discuss your views on abortion.
  5. Discuss your views on homosexuality.
  6. What is your view of women in ministry?
  7. Do you believe in practicing church discipline? What form does that take?
  8. Relate any personal experience involving discipline of church members.
  9. How do you deal with conflict? Give an example of a situation and how you dealt with it.
  10. Does the church have a role in environmental issues? If so, what? What would be the theological foundation for such concern or action?
  11. In a society that thinks it doesn’t need the church, how would you make it more relevant?
  12. How do you move people from nominal church/club membership to active faith and discipleship?
  13. How does the church roll out a welcome mat to a multicultural neighborhood?

Personal

  1. How did you become a Christian?
  2. How do you nurture your personal relationship with Christ?
  3. What books most influenced your spiritual growth? Who are your favorite authors? Theologians?
  4. What do you like and dislike most about the ministry?
  5. What are some of your specific and regular practices regarding spiritual disciplines (e.g., personal prayer, Bible study, meditation, stewardship, fasting, ongoing learning, etc.)?
  6. Describe your prayer life.
  7. To whom are you accountable for your own spiritual growth and behavior?
  8. How do you express God’s love to other people?What is your experience with multi-cultural congregations?
  9. Tell us about your family.
  10. What does your wife/husband think about you as a pastor? How does she/he feel about your ministry?
  11. How does your wife/husband feel about the possibility of your serving this church?
  12. How is your wife/husband involved in ministry?
  13. In what way will your wife/husband share with you in this call?
  14. How do your children feel about your ministry?
  15. How do your children feel about the possibility of your serving this church?
  16. How do you maintain your own physical and mental health? What steps do you take to ensure family health and cohesion?
  17. How do you maintain a quality relationship with your wife/husband?
  18. How long do you plan to stay at your next church?
  19. How do you balance your life between family and ministry?
  20. Does your family support your move?
  21. What do you expect this church to do to nurture you and your family?
  22. Have the pressures of the ministry and expectations of church members affected your family in the past? What steps did you take to correct the situation?
  23. What do your friends say about your sense of humor?
  24. What sort of safeguards do you have in place to protect yourself morally?
  25. Have you ever had a problem with staying addictions to alcohol, pornography, drugs, gambling, other?
  26. Have you ever been accused of sexual misconduct?
  27. Have you had any sexual harassment training?
  28. Have you ever been treated for depression? Or been prescribed any psychiatric medications?
  29. Do you have any health limitations that would interfere with the job?
  30. What are your hobbies?
  31. Why are you leaving your current position?
  32. What attracted you to this church?
  33. What questions or concerns do you have for us?

Pastor Search Committee Cautionary Notes

Be aware that in as early as a month or two, you are most likely to be the first ones to be disgruntled or disappointed in your choice. Sometimes it is due to a very persuasive pastor who overwhelmed you during the interview. Sometimes it is just a disappointment in the fulfillment of your expectations, and sometimes it is because you gave in to the strongest voice on the committee and compromised your convictions.

If you find yourself in this position, the first thing you do is pray for the new pastor. If it looks like you really did make a bad choice, follow the protocol for registering your grievances. If the vast majority of people are happy and you find yourself alone, it’s better to step out of leadership and membership and keep quiet, rather than start a movement to get your own way. If you’re fighting a losing battle it will only harm you. Should you be right, others will discover it in time, and then together you can follow the right protocol. Discipline is important not just for the church, but for the person as well. Also, never forget that God can step in at any moment and change the situation.

Important: Due to laws being different in various countries, some questions might not be permitted to be asked of a candidate. Please be sensitive to these. However, if a pastor doesn’t have anything to hide, he/she won’t mind answering any of the above questions. Pastor Seeking Committees need to understand that pastors are human too. God can use the past weaknesses of a truly repentant pastor to strengthen them for future ministry.

If you have served on a search committee, let me now any questions that you’ve found helpful while interviewing a candidate.

Photo via Flickr

John I. Snyder

John I. Snyder is an international pastor, author, and conference speaker. His highly acclaimed prayer guide Your 100 Day Prayer from Thomas Nelson Publishers has transformed the lives of readers all over the world, taking them on a 100-day journey in prayer over a specific issue or circumstance in their lives. John received his Master of Theology and Master of Divinity degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey, and he received his Doctor of Theology degree magna cum laude in New Testament Studies from the University of Basel, Switzerland.
January 5, 2017

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