I love meaningful conversations with my church members. They are intelligent and fun – a great combination.
I love a conversation that leaves me thinking. I had one this Sunday morning. It was about finding a new minister. Our church is in the process of searching for a Senior Minister. It is a difficult task and it is difficult for several reasons. The minister – church member relationship is exactly that – a relationship. It is much more like a marriage than it is a boss-employee relationship. Though some church members believe they are the pastor’s boss, he or she is not. The pastor answers to the Board of the church and ultimately to the Lord.
It is impossible to use the usual (normal) methods of filling a position. The information about the candidates on the papers denominations circulate fails to give the search committees much help. It is nice to know where the candidate went to school and where they worked. But it is impossible to read the papers and get a feel for their theology, philosophy, work ethic, personality and the really important things that make or break a successful pastorate. Of course the search committee has available to them sample sermons and references. But, as a preacher friend once told me, every preacher has at least one good sermon. And references: if they can’t find three people with something nice to say about them, they should just go ahead and leave the ministry.
The interviews are something else. In all of the interviews I have experienced, it has been the rare occasion that I have been asked any meaningful or relevant questions. Instead, when interviewing candidates, the committee members dip into their own experiences of being interviewed for their jobs and end up asking “normal” interview questions that are almost meaningless for finding a minister. But the committee tries to use them anyway.
I have been asked questions like:
- What is the most difficult situation you have dealt with in your ministry? Answer: People like you.
- Do you visit people in their homes and in the hospital? Answer: Do preachers do that? I had no idea.
- Are you a good preacher? Answer: Or course I am. I am Billy Graham’s role model. (I have yet to hear a preacher describe him or herself as an average preacher.)
- Do you think children and youth are the future of the church? Answer: It is supposed to by a resounding YES. But the correct answer is – Children and youth are the church, now.
- What would you do if someone criticized you? Answer: I would be totally shocked. I’ve been in the ministry for four decades and no one has ever criticized me.
- Can you work well with our Board of Directors? Answer: Can anyone work well with your Board of Directors?
- What will you do about evangelism and church growth? Answer: I, of course, will do all of the evangelism for the church. That is what you are paying me for, isn’t it? And, with my awesome preaching, people will just flock in.
- Will you work forty hours a week? Answer: Are you kidding? I only work on Sunday mornings. That is why I went into the ministry.
- Will you keep office hours? Answer: Only if I am allowed to use the church computer to check my Facebook, Skype with my friends, watch Youtube videos for hours at a time and shop on Amazon and Ebay.
- Do you do pastoral counseling? Answer: Yes. But only hot single chicks.
Okay, I have been asked those questions but those were not my answers. It was what I was thinking but not what not what I was saying.
Here is a list of questions I think I should have been asked.
- Tell us your spiritual journey with emphasis on what your life was like before you accepted Jesus, how you came to know Jesus as a reality in your life and what difference has being a Christ follower made in your life?
- On a scale of 1 -10, rank how much authority you attribute to the Bible.
- What are your personal spiritual disciplines?
- Describe the thing or things that you find most challenging in being a Christ follower.
- What is the primary purpose of the church?
- What are your core values?
- What are you attempting to accomplish through your preaching?
- What would you encourage church members to do to facilitate their spiritual growth?
- What methods would you put in place to engage church members in ministry?
- How is your relationship with your wife?
- What will be her involvement in the church?
- You are divorced. Tell us about that?
- Who are your mentors and spiritual heroes?
If you are going to ask me questions, ask me questions that matter. Instead of trying to discover what I can do, find out who I am, what I believe and what moves and motivates me. Those are the things that will direct and empower my ministry in your church. The other things are learned skills or skills I can learn.
I am looking forward to my next interview. Hope there are some good questions.
Copyright © 2014, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved
Bill McConnell is Senior Minister at Lindenwood Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press. He can be contacted @ email@example.com. Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon