Monday, December 9, 2013

Questions Pastors Should Get Asked in Interviews But Don't

I am currently looking for a position in Youth Ministry/Pastorate/Church Planting and I have been interviewed for several positions. I am sad to say that the meat of the interview is usually filled with questions that don't really help them understand you as a pastor. For instance one question I have been asked lately was, "What can you do for our Church?" or I even met for an informal interview recently and was told all about the Church, but never asked a question. As I thought back on my professional life in ministry which has included hundreds of interviews, and service in several church contexts, I have only on one occasion been asked a good question. A search committee of lay people, two women I deeply respect, asked the question, "If you had one chance to say something to a student, what would it be?" I was floored at the great question, and began to share the gospel as I would share it with a student because that is the one thing worth sharing! So, I have been surprised recently by the questions that pastors never get asked in interviews. The following is a list of questions that pastors should get asked in interviews, but don't. A quick disclaimer. I have never been asked these questions in a live person to person ministerial interview (occasionally on a application) but I know some men have been asked these question. So my disclaimer is that most men like me do not get asked these questions and probably should. 
1. Describe your theology.
I know many men get asked about their theology; sadly, I have never been asked this question during an interview. If I have interviewed on hundreds of occasions and never been asked this question, you can bet that many other men are also not being asked this question. Your theology is very important! Your theology describes how great or how small a view of God you have as a pastor. And frankly I want a pastor who has a high, and big, and grand view of God, not a small, measly, inept view. So let's start asking this question!
2. Tell us what you believe about the Bible.
I know that many people get asked this question too, but again I have never been asked this question. I have however been asked this question, but not in such an important process as an interview for a pastoral role, in which I would be responsible for shepherding those put in my care. If I have a weak view of the Bible, how am I to shepherd Christ's flock? Just a hint: the only thing that you can shepherd Christ's flock with is His book, the Bible. We should definitely be asking this question in interviews!
3. Tell us about your devotional life.
Again it would seem like this would be toward the top of the list as a question that we ask pastors in interviews but sadly it is not. A pastor's ability to feed the souls of his congregation is directly proportional to how he regularly feeds his own soul. Does he regularly receive nourishment in his own soul from his disciplined, celebratory, meditative, joyous, worshipful communion with Christ? If not, then you do not want him as your pastor.
4. Tell me about your relationship with your wife and kids.
Unfortunately the state of ministry is abysmal in this area. I know personally so many stories of how ministry becomes a pastor's mistress. I have recently heard of a man who was the leader of a large evangelical ministry and had some kind of "inappropriate affair" with a woman who was not his wife. The board asked him to step down, and the ministry has since closed up shop! Do you want your pastor to fall into this same, sadly, not uncommon situation? Then ask him about this! 
5. When was the last time you looked at pornography? or Do you have an internet addiction of any kind?
Unfortunately, men in the ministry are looking at porn at the same rate as the world. The computer guy at my last church recounted to me several pastors that he had to clean up their computer and the problems were the multitude of porn they had on their computers. You may want to ask them about this in a loving and open way realizing that it might be a problem currently for the guy you are interviewing. I had a serious problem with pornography, and 12 years ago God freed me and by His grace I have been free from it ever since. I take extreme measures in my life today to stay free from it! and My wife graciously is my strongest and best accountability! If you do not ask your pastor you are interviewing about this issue, then your Church might be blindsided by this problem later. At the very least you may find yourself wondering why your Church is not experiencing blessing, and it might be that your pastor has an internet addiction, or porn problem.
6. Tell us about your view of sanctification?
This might relate to the previous question also. If you are a church that values victorious Christian living, you might want to know if your pastor believes, teaches, lives, and exemplifies the victorious Christian life. I know I do, and I have have never really been asked about this in any interview I have had. 
7. If you had a chance to tell a student/person one thing, what would it be and why?
I have been asked this question! It was the best question I have ever been asked in an interview! That probably has a lot to do with why I stayed almost 9 years at that church. They believed in taking opportunities and making the most of them for the gospel. They loved their community, and preached the gospel every moment they could. At this church my office was straight across from the associate pastor for years. I think I must have overheard him lead hundreds of people to Christ over the years. If you ask this question as a church or search committee, it shows you want to make the most of every opportunity you have as a church to impact your community for Christ.

I wanted to also put out there a few questions that might not be as important as the previous questions, but they could definitely help you understand the person you might call to be your shepherd. This could also help you avoid a lot of conflict.

8. What is the most difficult thing you have ever gone through, and how did you deal with it?
The answer to this has shaped my ministry over the years. Has a pastor really ever gone through something of heart-wrenching difficulty? Has he had to deal with the most difficult things in life and how did he lean on the Lord through it? If he has he will be a better pastor. Maybe you would rather have a pastor who has dealt with the very difficult side of life, and has trusted in a great and good God to pull him through. Your church will be better for it. 
9. What is your best experience in church life? And worst?
This might also give you a good picture into how a pastor would lead you in the difficult aspects of church life. Has he experienced some extraordinary level of unity in the body? Or has he ever had to excommunicate someone? Has he ever had to display the love of Christ in church discipline? has he ever been fired or pushed out of a church? Has he ever had to fire a staff member, etc.?
10. How will you shepherd/protect the flock? How will you guard the purity of the church?
His answer to this is very important. He may be able to describe how he would do this, but this question might catch a pastor a little off guard. You may want someone who can describe instances of where and how he has sought to protect the flock, or at least be able to describe how he would. 
11. Describe your vision for the church (universal and local).
This question may be a little higher or lower in importance depending on how your church likes vision, mission, and strategy related topics. If he can articulate, a specified vision for a church, that might help you see how he fits into your particular church's life. 
12. Do you have a personal mission/vision/strategy for ministry?
This relates to the previous question and may also be more important to your church than at the bottom of the list, but it can be helpful so see if a person lines up with the particular direction of your church.  
13. Do you have a life verse/purpose?
I always found this interesting and it always helped me get to know a person more if I knew their life verse. How well do you know the man that you are calling to be your pastor? If he has a life verse that also might be helpful to get to know him better. I have known my life verse to give me direction, purpose, and a deep calling in this life's journey.

These might not all be appropriate to be asked in your particular context, but I have been interviewing lately and I wanted to give churches and ministries something to think about as they seek to hire church staff and especially pastoral staff. One thing you might do, would be to put many of these questions on a deeper application/Biblical beliefs application for those you have narrowed your search down to. I have come up with this also to help churches and people see how lacking our typical search process is for finding pastors. I have found that men are in the pulpit without churches really knowing who a person is, or if he is really walking in victory. I want to assure you many men are not walking in spiritual victory who are pastors (read Dangerous Calling for more in depth look at the state of ministry).
And when you do hire a pastor get to know him, invite him to your home, meet with him, pray with him, and seek him out as a person, and let him pour the word of God into your life. You will be glad you did.

Dangerous Calling from Crossway on Vimeo.

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