I like it even more when the candidate also gets to ask the search committee that question, as in: Tell me a time when your congregation has led change?
Here are a couple more questions that offer layers of insights, especially if you ask both the candidate and the search committee:
1. What Impresses You About a Congregation or a Pastor?
- Numbers? As in “Our church has 4000 members” or “Our budget is $3 million” or “Our pastor makes six figures a year.”
- Educational Credentials? As in “She has a degree from Harvard” or “Most of our members have doctorates” or “He studied with Ed Friedman.“
- Diversity? As in “Our congregation is comprised of a variety of age groups” or “We have members from ten different countries” or “Our community includes homeless members and wealthy members and everyone in between.”
- Real Estate? As in “Our church campus boasts two buildings and a gym” or “Our building is on the historic register” or “Our sanctuary was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.“
- Music? As in “Our section leaders are members of the City Opera” or “Our choir tours the country each summer” or “Our pastor is also a jazz pianist.”
- Mission Projects? (which could also be about numbers) As in “We support 43 different mission projects” or “We go on mission trips every summer” or “We send all our money to a hospital in Haiti.“
- Serving broken people? As in “Our pastor teaches us how to reach out to neighbors” or “We have good relationships with our local school officials and civic leaders to identify the needs of the community” or “We are especially connected to the homeless and victims of domestic violence in our town.”
Look into their eyes when they answer this question.
2. What do you not want me/us to know about you?
- Does your church have secrets they don’t want to talk about?
- Is there a power player in the congregation who bullies every pastor the church calls?
- Do you fail to practice Sabbath?
- Is there a group that wields most of the power in the church? (And – if they are willing to spill it: who are they?)
- Do you have a history of poor relationships with co-workers?
- Do you need to be the smartest person in the room?
- Are you threatened by talented church members?
Give them time to think about this before answering.
3. How have your leadership skills changed to better serve the 21st Century Church (if you are the potential pastor) or (if you are the search committee) how is your church’s organizational structure and culture different than it was 10-20 years ago?
- Has nothing really changed?
- Is change hard for you/the congregation because of a lack of energy? Fear of failure? You don’t know how?
Interviews can be fun and inspiring. They can offer insights about what we are really looking for and what we are not at all looking for.
Because Lent is a time of discernment this is an especially good time for churches looking for new pastors and pastors looking for new churches these days. Spend some time prayerfully considering the deeper matters at hand. Authentic discernment takes time.