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Strengthen: What pastoral candidates should ask

Last month I shared some questions that pastoral search committees should ask of candidates. This month I want to turn the tables and share some questions that I think pastors should ask of the committees. I heard a pastor say years ago that “all pulpit committees lie.”  While I do not completely agree with that statement, I do believe that committees tend to paint a preferred view of reality.

The people who are selected to serve in these capacities tend to be the key, faithful leaders of the church who love their church and see it from their perspectives. Because of this reality, it is very important for the pastoral candidate to ask good questions that will help in discerning God’s direction.

A few months ago I heard Greg Matte, pastor of Houston, Texas, First, share some advice for pastors about interacting with search committees by providing four key areas of questions. I am going to follow his framework in the suggested questions for the pastor to ask.

The first area of questions has to do with expectations. One of the major sources of frustrations for both pastors and churches is unmet expectations regarding roles and responsibilities. The search process is time for the pastor to learn what the church expects from their pastor.

Areas such as time in the office, community involvement, denominational/associational involvement and expectations for his family are important to learn.  The answer to these questions will not only help the pastor learn if there are past issues that shape the expectations, but if his expectations of being a pastor is a match with the church’s.

The second area of questions has to do with challenges.  Search committees are often hesitant with a prospective pastor to bring up the issues or problems that the church is facing.  These issues or problems may not discourage the pastor away from serving the church, but it is important for the pastor to know about them. 

A good way to learn the needed answer is to ask what challenges the church is facing.  The answers from the team will typically not only reveal what they are but how individual team members feel about the challenge. This information becomes valuable in assessing the situation and prayerfully considering the next steps in the process.

The third area of questions has to do with logistics. These are the nuts and bolts questions. These questions begin with the phrase, “How does the church…” It is important for the pastoral candidate to know how the church handles money and makes decisions.

The answers to these questions reveal practices and processes or a lack thereof. These questions are important because they provide insight into the key areas of practical function that pastors must work with and through.  These answers will reveal how the church operates and give opportunity for further questions about what factors led to those decisions.

The fourth area of questions has to do with leadership.  Pastors have preferred styles of leadership they exercise that are often based on their convictions and personalities.  Churches also have preferred styles in which they prefer to be led that are based on a number of factors.

When these leadership styles clash, it often causes a great deal of hurt to both the pastor and church.  Pastors should ask about what leadership looks like in the church.  How are decisions made, and what groups are expected to be involved in those decisions?  This helps him to know how he fits into the church’s culture and if the church would be open to embracing his leadership.

Remember, the pastor search process is a difficult one because we are attempting to discern God’s leading.  I believe using the questions from this month’s article and last month’s article will help both the pastor and the church.  Clarity in seeking His direction is essential as we trust God to lead both together.

James Swain

Author: James Swain

James is the BGCO Equipping Team Leader.

View more articles by James Swain.

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