In addition to having a good resume and maybe even having a personal connection to the church you are interviewing with, there is one thing that will allow you to stick out above the rest of the people in the pastoral search process. What is that one thing? The questions you ask the pastoral search team.
Why? Because leaders ask great questions. And asking great questions shows others what you are thinking and processing. When a leader asks a lot of questions, that communicates a lot about how they will lead.
If you don’t ask many questions, don’t expect to move very far in the process.
For the last six months, this process has been my reality. And I’m thankful and grateful to say that the process is now finished – I have been called as the senior pastor of First Church of Christ in Bluffton, Indiana (here’s the “trial sermon” I preached).
And through being in this process with three churches, I’ve asked a ton (really, a TON) of questions.
So what I want to do in this article is give you the various questions I asked throughout the process so that you can be prepared to ask great questions too.
Questions to Ask the Pastoral Search Team as a Senior Pastor Candidate
Disclaimer: You won’t see a lot of theological questions in this list because I did my due diligence to see where each church stood on major doctrines before we began the process.
- What’s your favorite thing about [church]? How do you think you’re perceived by the community?
- Could you tell me about your elders and the culture within the eldership?
- And the staff?
- What do you gauge the staff morale to be like right now?
- The congregation overall?
- What do you see as some of the bigger challenges in the present and future of [church]?
- What kind of leadership dynamic do you want to see between your senior pastor and you as elders?
- Ten years from now, what do you hope and pray to see [church] be?
- Do you want to see [church] grow and reach its redemptive potential?
- What is your current strategy for discipleship?
- What are small groups like at [church]?
- How is pastoral care done at [church]?
- What are your children’s and teen ministries like?
- What would your expectations of [your spouse] be?
- How are leaders being developed throughout the church?
- How are new people assimilated into the church?
- What is a typical Sunday morning like?
- What do you see as the biggest opportunities to reach the people in [community]?
- What are the three areas you feel must be changed at [church]? What three areas definitely should not be changed?
- What would be my biggest challenge as your senior pastor?
- What is the best thing [church] has done in the last five years?
- What is something you don’t know about us but would like to know?
- What are some of the common questions the congregation has been asking throughout this transition process?
- What is your relationship with other neighboring churches?
- How are decisions on staffing made?
- What has been the greatest challenge for the elder board in the last twelve months?
- Most exciting thing?
- Is there a current leadership development track for staff to grow in depth or position?
- Have you ended each year in the last five years under or over budget?
- What is the current process for the identification and installment of new elders?
- What is the % of the overall budget spent on staff?
- Ideally, what would you like that to be?
- What is the current weekly offering average?
- What are the strengths that attracted you to me? What are your reservations?
- What is the next step in this process?
Pay Attention to More Than Their Answers
Remember, as a senior pastor candidate, you are not the only one being evaluated in this process. You are evaluating them too. And you shouldn’t feel bad or weird about that fact.
So with that in mind, as you ask these questions, you’ll want to pay attention to more than their answers.
Pay attention to the questions they ask you. This shows you what is most important to them. Out of all the possible questions they could have asked you, they asked certain ones. What does that communicate to you?
Pay attention to the way they answer your questions. Some of your questions will be harder to answer. Some will be far easier. The hard questions might be easy questions for a different search team. So be mindful of what is difficult for them to answer.
Pay attention to the “honest moments”. What I mean by that is there will be some questions you ask that will be moments where they have to share a difficult detail with you about the church. When these happen, thank God for them. Because they are showing that they can be trusted as a team. Sure, you want to pay attention to the challenges that are surfaced, but more than that, pay attention to the fact that they aren’t trying to hide something.
Pay attention to their willingness to receive all of your questions. If they are trying to rush the interview, don’t ignore that. If they are willing to answer your questions, that speaks positively about them as a team and their process is centered around their candidates as people and not as commodities.
Resources That Helped Me
This was my first (and prayerfully, will be my only) time in a senior pastor candidate process with a pastoral search team.
So I don’t share all of this as some guru, just as someone who has just gone through it. And if you’ve been with the RP community for long, you know I’m always dissecting things. So I pray this was helpful to you.
But I know this didn’t cover every question you could ask. So here are a couple resources that were helpful to me.
Share Your Thoughts
Grow as a Preacher and Leader
Want to grow as a preacher and leader? We’ll help you do it. Just subscribe to the blog. And to get you started and as a way of saying thank you, we’ll include 6 free resources: Building a Leadership Pipeline Packet, Pre-Formatted Sermon Notes Template, Sermon Evaluation Worksheet, 56 Weeks of Preaching Topics, Sermon Series Planning Evernote Template, and the Weekly Productivity Evernote Template. All this for free when you subscribe.