Essential Questions When Candidating (ask these or suffer the consequences)

Recently a pastor asked,

“What are key questions to ask before serving at a church? And what things should we look for when we are in the process of interviewing at a church?”

What a great question. I’ve worked with many Pastors who are currently looking for a new church to serve in. Plus, I’ve worked with search committees looking for a new pastor. Want to know a secret? Most search committees don’t know what they’re doing…and, many pastors don’t know what they are doing when looking for a new church. By this, I mean that some pastors go into the interviewing process only prepared to answer questions…not to ask questions. One must remember that you are interviewing just as much as they are interviewing.

Want to know another secret? I’ve pastored in five churches and not one of them was I ever interviewed. Know how I managed to escape this? Three of the five I planted, and two of the five I was simply asked to join the pastoral team by the current pastor. I know, I know, you’re thinking, “Lucky stiff.”

I realize that only a small group of you are currently looking for a new church but don’t skip this if it doesn’t apply right now. Instead, ask yourself how your board would answer these questions if asked and what changes, if any, said answers might lead to?

In no particular order, here are some of the questions I would ask a search committee if I was candidating at a church:

Over the past three years has the church been in decline, plateaued, or growing?
To what do you attribute this?
What percentage of the congregation is over 50?
How many families do you have with children in elementary school?
Why did the last pastor leave?
How stable is the church financially?
Does the church have money in savings?
What is that money used for?
How are major decisions made in this church?
Will I be included in the decision-making process and how?
Will I be considered a member of the board and will I have a vote?
Under what circumstances can I be fired?
How would you describe the morale of the leaders: high, low, somewhere between?
To what do you attribute this?
Do you have a pastoral job description?
Is this description flexible?
What will be my salary?
Will the church provide medical insurance?
Does the church provide cost of living increases?
How are pay raises determined?
Do you have a budget that I can review?
What is the job of the church board?
Does the church have a mission, vision, or purpose statement that I can review?
Will I be expected to keep office hours and how flexible is this?
What expectations do you have of my spouse?
How much vacation time do I have each year?
How many times a year can I be out of the pulpit?
What expenses can I expect to be reimbursed for?
Does the church have a line item in the budget for books, conferences, etc?
What percentage of your members are volunteering at the church?
Is the population in your town/city growing, plateaued, or in decline?
To what do you attribute this?
What has this church been doing to reach and retain new people?
Do you have term-limits for board members, deacons, elders, etc?
What has this church done to recruit, train, and deploy new leaders?
In the past, how has this church responded to significant attempts at change?

Boy…if these questions aren’t enough to scare the search committee off, nothing will. What questions might you add?