While I know that churches are looking for pastors throughout the year, it seems that spring time is prime time for the pastor search process.  In recent days, I have had numerous conversations with both pastor search teams and pastoral candidates as they seek God’s direction for their next pastor and place of service.  Both groups are asking questions in order to help themselves discern how God is leading.

These conversations have raised a question in my mind; what questions should search teams and candidates be asking?  There are standard questions that most ask, but I think there are some important questions that are often not asked.

In this article, I will focus on questions a search team should ask of a candidate. In next month’s article, I will look at questions a candidate should ask of the search team.  These questions are not all inclusive but some important ones in seeking God’s direction.

First, here is a question I would recommend a search team not ask: What is your vision for the church?  While every church needs a visionary leader, it is not fair to ask a pastoral candidate this question with his limited knowledge of the church and community. 

A prospective pastor will not be familiar enough with the congregation and in the ministry context to discern the Lord’s vision. He may have a sense of direction, but an articulated vision is an unrealistic expectation. Here are some key questions for the search team to ask:

Share about a recent time you shared the Gospel with someone outside of preaching and teaching? The answer to this question gives insight into the candidate’s passion for sharing the Gospel. It is a valid expectation that a prospective pastor is regularly involved in sharing the Gospel with others and not just through his preaching and teaching ministry.

• Share something that God has taught you recently from His Word in your daily devotional or Bible reading time? Pastors can easily get caught in the trap of only reading the Bible to find a sermon. The discipline of daily time in the Scriptures is important for the spiritual health of a pastor. This question helps to not only create an expectation but provide a level of accountability for a prospective pastor in this vital discipline.

Share how you have handled conflict in your current ministry setting? Because churches are filled with people, some level of conflict is inevitable. The response to this question provides insight into the candidate’s preferred style of conflict resolution. A church with a history of volatility and a candidate with a similar history can create potential turmoil. Likewise, a church with a history of sweeping things under the rug and a candidate who avoids conflict at all costs can lead to years of not dealing with issues that need to be resolved.

• Share about your interaction with the church staff and leadership in your current ministry setting? This question can help the team learn how the candidate views his relationship with church staff and leadership. This is another point where alignment between the candidate and the church is important. Many issues between pastors and church staff or lay leadership are the result of differing philosophies of teamwork and ministry. A clear understanding of leadership style and philosophy of ministry helps avoid future problems and helps the team further discern God’s leading.

There are many other important questions, but I think these are key questions to ask.  The pastor search process is a difficult one because we are attempting to discern God’s leading. I think these questions can help. Next month, the questions the pastoral candidate should ask.