How Not to Interview Your Next Pastor

Church interviews are not like corporate interviews necessarily, but healthyjob-opportunity-2_1 congregations offer a positive portrait of who when they interview potential staff members.

Here’s what not to do when you are interviewing your next pastor, for example:

  1. Let your candidate find her own way from the airport to your church building.  Better:  Pick her up at the airport if she’s arriving by plane.  Best: Ask her if she’s eaten lately and take her out for food before the interview if she’s starving.
  2. Set up your candidate in someone’s home for an overnight. Extroverts might love this but if you can possibly arrange it, have your candidate stay in a hotel for some down time. Most pastors are introverts and will need a chunk of time to regroup.
  3. Argue amongst each other during the interview.  Nothing screams “toxic church!” like a pastor nominating committee that has disdain for each other.
  4. Interview filter-less.  Watch what you blurt out.  It’s not helpful (but painfully revealing) to say these things during an interview: “You appear to be a mediocre preacher.”  “The first thing we need you to do is get rid of our lazy secretary.” “We’re actually not sure we can afford a full-time pastor.”
  5. Interview without doing your research.  (e.g. you don’t know whether or not you can afford a FT pastor.)  Better:  know everything you can possibly know about your candidates.  Read their blogs.  Take note of their social media presence.  Google them.
  6. Ask random questions.  It makes sense to ask all candidates the same prepared questions so you can compare and contrast the answers.  Do not ask “If you could be an animal, what would you be?” questions.  Do not ask historically contextual questions like “If your ten year old son broke the rose window, how would you punish him?”
  7. Leave no time for the candidate to ask questions.   This is a two-way street, folks.  Strong candidates will come with questions of their own, so leave lots of time for them to ask away.  Be prepared to answer their questions honestly and clearly.  Note:  If your candidate asks a simple question (“Why does your church exist?”) and nobody has a good answer, that will speak volumes to your candidate.
  8. After the interview, say, “Well that was great.  We’ll be in touch.” For the love of God, give the candidate a clear understanding of Next Steps and then close in prayer.  Have the candidate pray so you can see how he does it.  And then give him a ride back to the hotel. Or go to dinner with everyone.

Candidates will learn who you are by what you do and do not do in the hospitality department.  Keep this in mind as you welcome your guest.

Some Pastor Nominating Committees are pros.  They have their acts together and they recognize that pastor interviews are both professional and spiritual endeavors.   But I’m noticing that some Pastor Nominating Committees sabotage themselves by not thinking through their interview process.

We make better choices (and we please God) when we consider hospitality while meeting with anyone with whom we hope to share our lives.  Especially our next spiritual leaders.



One response to “How Not to Interview Your Next Pastor

  1. Andrea ( aka rokinrev)

    It would be nice and even respectful to let candidates know either way. As an interim as well as on search committees, I have confronted churches to let every.single.candidate know in writing( a REAL LETTER) where they stand. ( also, candidates, pull out the thank you cards)


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