Interviewing potential pastors is a difficult task. I’ve been on both sides of the interview table. I’ve been the one asking the questions, and I’ve been on the receiving end of interview questions too. I’ve asked, and been asked, both good and bad questions.
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)
Here are 13 questions – a baker’s dozen – that every church looking for a pastor should be prepared to ask. They deal with the pastor’s heart, head, and hands.
Heart (Life) Questions – “Keep a close watch on yourself”
1. How has God humbled you?
2. What are your greatest joys? What are your greatest struggles and temptations?
3. What are some joys and challenges you’ve experienced in your marriage and with your children?
4. What are your personal disciplines for spending time in the Word and in prayer?
It’s important to get a sense of the candidate’s heart. Tim Keller says, “What you most need in a leader is someone who has been broken by the knowledge of his or her sin, and even greater knowledge of Jesus’ costly grace.” Churches need pastors who have been humbled by their need of salvation, and awed by God’s grace.
Head (Doctrine) Questions – “Keep a close watch on…the teaching”
5. What have you been learning about God in the past year?
6. What is the gospel?
7. Who are your favorite authors and books?
8. How has your theology changed in the past five years?
9. What is the greatest need of the North American church?
Chris Brauns says that articulating the gospel “should be a belt-high fastball that he hits into the upper deck.” Churches need pastors who understand the gospel and its implications for the entire Christian life. Pastors should show evidence that they’re growing in their knowledge of what God has revealed and why this matters to the church.
Hand (Skill) Questions
10. Do you tend to focus more on people or on tasks?
11. What are your greatest accomplishments and failures in ministry?
12. What are your goals in ministry?
13. When do you tend to move on to a new challenge?
Skill is not as important as a candidate’s life and doctrine, but it’s still important. A good candidate should understand what he’s good at, and what he’s not. He should have a sense of calling, and show some evidence of skill in ministry.
There are many more questions that a search committee needs to ask, but every search committee should be prepared to ask these questions. 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.
What are some other questions that every search committee should be prepared to ask?