What Are Appropriate Pastoral Interview Questions?

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Interviewing potential pastors is a never an easy task. I’ve been on both sides of the interview process. Lately, I have been the one asking the questions, but I have also been on the receiving end of interview questions too. There are times when I have asked, both good and bad questions.  There are times during the congregational search process that I get asked very inappropriate questions.  Matters that caused me to say, “You want to know what?  Then respond back with, “What does that have to do with being a pastor?”

Paul said to Timothy, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:16)

When deciding whether or not interviews are what is best in your process, every congregation and pastor need to approach the process with this in mind.  “Churches need pastors who have hearts that have been touched by God’s grace, heads that are growing in the knowledge of God, and hands that are ready to serve the church.” Darryl Dash

When trying to discover what type of interview gets at this kind of man of God, I gently attempt to guide congregations to a behavior-based interview technique vs a traditional interview method.  A traditional interview process focuses mainly on education, qualifications and the interviewer’s perceived experiences of the candidate.  This tends to result in the congregation projecting their identity on the candidate, clouds their vision and prevents them from seeing what the candidate can offer.   Traditional interview questions often are asked this way:

  • If you were our pastor how would you help us reach our community?
  • “Tell me about yourself.”
  • “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
  • “What is your greatest strength?”
  • “What is your biggest weakness?”

Questions such as these do not allow you to assess the actual abilities of the candidates but instead enable the prospective pastor to provide vague, idealistic answers to fit your expectations. It also allows the call committee to interject their hopes and dreams on the pastoral candidate as well, which is not fair to him or the congregation.

Behavior-based interviewing, on the other hand, involves aligning real skills, talents and abilities of the pastoral candidates with the needs of the calling congregation. Using behavior-based questions can help the interviewer reduce the tendency of calling a pastor who is in their image.  This style also allows the pastoral candidates to reveal how God has uniquely gifted them and show their God-given capabilities rather than trying to project directly an image which they think the interviewing congregation wants to see.

Below are some sample Behavior-based interview questions:

  • Tell me how you went about learning how your current congregation works.
  • No matter how hard we try, we eventually end up frustrating a congregational member from time to time.  Please tell about the time when one of your members became upset with you.  How did you discover the member was unhappy with you?  What steps did you take to rebuild the member’s confidence in you? How did it turn out?

This gives you some insight into some of the work I do with calling congregations.  It is such a joy to see how God works through human means to find the man of God for His church to assist it in carrying out its ministry in the world. May God bless you and may God continue to find men of God to serve His church.

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