Red Flags

If you were looking for a new pastor, what “red flags” would you Red Flagslook for in hopes of avoiding a poor choice?

  • Doesn’t play well with others?
  • Binge drinks a couple times a year?
  • Has PTSD from an accident?
  • Married his ex-sister in law?

Part of my job involves doing “exec checks” on pastors interviewing to serve around here.  I contact my counterpart where those pastors are currently serving and ask about red flags.

As the pastoral candidate gets closer to being called to a church, there will be other checks: DMV, financial, criminal, theological, “fitness.”  But in the initial check I’m looking for immediate deal breakers.

Here’s what I usually ask:

  • Are there any red flags?  (Seems like a good, basic opening.)
  • Is this a happy person?  (I don’t care if a person has bad days or even depression.  But how is this person’s general disposition?)
  • What does he/she do to serve beyond his/her local congregation? (Tells me if the pastor collaborates with others in the wider Church or in the community.)
  • Is this person teachable?  (Knows-it-all-already pastors tend to be poor leaders for a 21st Century Church.)
  • Is there anything else we need to know about this pastor?  (This would be a good time to tell me she’s got an unaddressed addiction or he burned down the manse.)

[Important note:  Someone is my position can’t truly be a “pastor to pastors”  if I also do “exec checks.” What if I have information shared during a pastoral moment, and I’m asked a question about that issue during an exec check? Boundary problem.]

My question, actually, is:  What Would You Consider a Red Flag for a Pastor? Does it depend on the context?  The pastor’s age?  The pastor’s marital status?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

What should I be asking during Exec Checks?  I’d love to hear your thoughts. What would you want to know about your future pastor?


3 responses to “Red Flags

  1. I don’t have an answer to your questions, but I do kind of want to know if there are any new pastors coming in who burned down the manse somewhere else. 😉


  2. One question I might ask, “How does this person handle anger: their own, that which is directed toward him/her, and moral outrage (righteous anger?). What makes them angry and how is it expressed/or not expressed coming out in other ways?”


  3. Teri, we had a person whose dog trashed the rectory, and there was some question as to whether or not we could present him to a parish with a rectory, given the past history.

    Like Julie, I usually ask how they handle conflict/anger. I also usually give a thumbnail sketch of the place they’ve applied to and ask if the reference can visualize them there. If I get any sort of hinky feeling, I tell my counterpart the people they’ve listed as references and ask if there is anyone else I should be calling about that person. Given that I’ve got a lot of parishes in search right now and a lot of calls to make, I don’t have the time to go really deep on many of these processes, but when the Spidey sense starts to tingle…


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