10 Crazy Questions Asked by Pastoral Search Committees

"Serving on a pastoral search committee is a tough assignment tasked to church members who may not have interview training or anything to go off other than their personal preferences for a new pastor. As such, most pastors have had their fair share of interesting search committee experiences." - Facts & Trends

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I vaguely remember a few nutty questions in questionnaires I received in the mail. Can't recall examples now, though.

Committees I interviewed with actually asked a lot of really good questions like:

  • How much time do you spend preparing a sermon?
  • How often would you preach the gospel?
  • What would you do if you heard one of your deacons attended a Michael Card concert?

These get to some important "what's having you as a pastor going to be like?" kinds of issues. That last one might seem like a 'gotcha' of some sort, or trivial, but it was neither. He was exploring my sense of proportion, what matters, what doesn't, what matters a lot, what matters a little. That's huge.

Mark_Smith's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

  • What would you do if you heard one of your deacons attended a Michael Card concert?

 

Answer: Ask if I can go with him... 

I presume that was not an answer they were looking for? Because he is.... reformed?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'm not sure what my answer was... but it seemed to be satisfactory. Most likely I communicated that what I believed to be appropriate for worship in church is not the same as what might be fitting for entertainment in other settings, and that I would expect there to be a number of things that I don't do as a matter of conscience that others might do--and probably vise versa--and we should give each other space, so to speak, on these things.

Bert Perry's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

I vaguely remember a few nutty questions in questionnaires I received in the mail. Can't recall examples now, though.

Committees I interviewed with actually asked a lot of really good questions like:

  • How much time do you spend preparing a sermon?
  • How often would you preach the gospel?
  • What would you do if you heard one of your deacons attended a Michael Card concert?

<snip>

Regarding that last bit, this Babylon Bee "article" somehow seems appropriate....  :^)  And this one.  

Seriously, enjoying the back & forth here, and it's telling how many of the questions are really more cultural than theological.  Nothing on the nature of the hypostatic union, or .....  :^)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Bert Perry wrote:

...it's telling how many of the questions are really more cultural than theological.  Nothing on the nature of the hypostatic union, or .....  :^)

I think that's completely normal.  It reflects both the fact that churches aren't generally composed of theologians, and the fact that how a pastor deals with more practical and cultural issues has a greater effect on church life than his views on certain theological issues.

We did have a number of theological questions on our questionnaire when we had our last pastoral search.  They were generally intended to help us find a pastor who was very close to our theological circles.  There were also questions on his views on new evangelicalism vs. conservative evangelicalism, church discipline, preaching, and other areas that would affect day-to-day life in the church.  You want a questionnaire to be specific enough to help the church hone in on the right man, without trying to dictate every area of his life and belief, but you also want to get some sense of how church life will change under his leadership (and it always will).  You don't want to try to compare the new man with the old, for a number of reasons, but it is a reasonable thing to try to find someone who will preach the word without worrying about whose ox gets gored, while still being someone who will be a reasonable fit with your church's theology, membership and culture.

Dave Barnhart

Mark_Smith's picture

Has your church voted to hold to the Danvers statement, the Nashville statement, and the Manhattan Declaration?

I only ask because even if I agree with all three, I would not say I hold to any of them because of concern over nuances, but would rather state my simple position.

Jim's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Has your church voted to hold to the Danvers statement, the Nashville state, and the Manhattan Declaration?

I only ask because even if I agree with all three, I would not say I hold to any of them because of concern over nuances, but would rather state my simple position.

Question: Has the church voted?

Answers:

  • These statements reflect the position of the church AND
  • The pulpit committee voted to ask prospective candidates to interact with these statements (they "cut to the chase")

Jim

 

Joeb's picture

At the time Jim did you tell them you couldn’t stand the Eagles and that you’d never root for the Phillies to win the World Series.   

Mark_Smith's picture

I scanned through the 3 statements. I have never read any of them before. You might want to be careful, however. I saw that Paige Patterson signed a couple of them and he is considered evil scumbag number one right now... so I am not sure you would want a person who agreed with him in any way... Apparently Jerry Vines is also a persona non grata as well after Rachel Denhollander's comment at the ERLC conference. You must stay current and relevant with all this stuff sir.

Bert Perry's picture

I would follow it up with some discussion on the five Fundamentals and the five Solas to get a picture of how the candidate thinks on his feet.  Another set of questions I used when interviewing candidates for youth pastor:

  • When confronted with difficult theological or practical questions, what is your "go-to" reference work?  
  • If time and money were not an obstacle, what would you study to improve your ministry?

What I found was that a lot of guys "had the right answers", but really did not do well thinking on their feet.  Given that our young people include the children of Mayo pathologists and IBM engineers, a youth pastor who could not think on his feet could be an immense disaster.  Would be a disaster anywhere, but especially here, or in a college town.

Mark also raises the issue of the candidate's approach to "difficult times", and while of course I don't disbelieve everything that Paige Patterson or Jerry Vines believes (I agree with them a lot, actually, and I'd bet so does Mrs. Denhollander), it is good to have someone who does take things like sexual assault seriously.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

Joeb wrote:

At the time Jim did you tell them you couldn’t stand the Eagles and that you’d never root for the Phillies to win the World Series.   

My Eagles story -Super Bowl XV

I directed the young adult (basically post-college singles up to about 30) ministry. I wanted to have a Super Bowl party at the house. The church said we couldn't skip the evening service. I understood and did not protest. [This was back in the day BEFORE people commonly owned VCRs!]. I rented a VCR and set it up to record the Super Bowl (which commenced about the time the evening service started). All young people agreed to keep radios off ... we would wait until we got to the house and then watch the SB. (One guy had a pocket radio with an ear bud up in the balcony ... he was aware of the blowout unfolding)

So after the evening service, about 30+ kids arrived at the house at about halftime. It was an Oakland blowout.

We never even watched the SB from the beginning. Just enjoyed the food and fellowship

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Bowl_XV

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Jim wrote:

Grace Church Candidate Questionnaire

What do you guys think of this? 

Personally, I would leave the question about salary requirements off, and talk about that if there's actually enough interest after the questionnaire to have him come candidate.

And, except in the case where the prospective pastor has a wife with a good job that includes health insurance (and you would be OK with her continuing that while her husband is the pastor), you can pretty much expect the prospective pastor to need health insurance.

Your questionnaire has fewer of the doctrinal/cultural questions than ours did, but you cover a good portion of that ground with your questions about the various Statements and Declarations.

Though I wouldn't know exactly how to rephrase it, your question on "cause for rumor" is a bit unclear.

Dave Barnhart

Jim's picture

dcbii wrote:

Personally, I would leave the question about salary requirements off, and talk about that if there's actually enough interest after the questionnaire to have him come candidate.

And, except in the case where the prospective pastor has a wife with a good job that includes health insurance (and you would be OK with her continuing that while her husband is the pastor), you can pretty much expect the prospective pastor to need health insurance.

Your questionnaire has fewer of the doctrinal/cultural questions than ours did, but you cover a good portion of that ground with your questions about the various Statements and Declarations.

Though I wouldn't know exactly how to rephrase it, your question on "cause for rumor" is a bit unclear.

  • The 'rumor' question. Got from a GARBC pastor and I included it. Yes it is unclear
  • The salary question. Most are answering "negotiable", "living wage", et cetera. 
  • The health insurance question: some men have a working wife and H/I is through her job. 
dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Comments inline.

Jim wrote:

  • The 'rumor' question. Got from a GARBC pastor and I included it. Yes it is unclear
  • The salary question. Most are answering "negotiable", "living wage", et cetera.

Yeah, that makes sense, since a more exact answer is too likely to disqualify an applicant.

  • The health insurance question: some men have a working wife and H/I is through her job.

Also pretty much what I figured, but many churches would not be happy with that situation, as not paying the pastor H/I would mean the wife would not be able to discontinue her employment.

Dave Barnhart

Bert Perry's picture

It strikes me that a church which wants the pastor's wife to spend a lot of time every week "doing church things" ought to adjust the pastor's salary accordingly.  OK, yes, "dream on", I know, and a bit off topic, but there is a lesson to be learned here.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

It strikes me that a church which wants the pastor's wife to spend a lot of time every week "doing church things" ought to adjust the pastor's salary accordingly.  OK, yes, "dream on", I know, and a bit off topic, but there is a lesson to be learned here.

 

There's the ideal ... and the reality.

 

Jim's picture

4 tranches:

  1. What should be asked in an application
  2. What should be in a resume/CV
  3. What should be in supplemental materials (eg doctrinal statement, position on [fill in the blank : KJVO, CCM, et cetera]
  4. What should be asked in a face to face interview

We practiced on the application and found that fairly easy to complete