While at Brentwood Baptist, it was typical to hire 7-10 ministers a year. Which meant we probably went through some or all of our selection process 50-60 times. So when I write about the need for insightful interview questions, it comes from a place of need for me (and my church). There are many factors for discerning someone’s spiritual maturity, and that assessment can’t be determined solely by interview questions. However, I’ve listed ten questions I use regularly that help me get a snapshot of a candidate’s spiritual status and trajectory. (If you’re interested, Brentwood Baptist’s full selection process is available for a nominal cost at equippedchurch.es).
In recent previous posts, I’ve listed both my favorite initial interview questions for a church staff member and also my go-to questions when I’m moving from the discovery phase to the drill down phase of interviewing.
While those sets of questions are important, questions specifically related to their spiritual development is key in our process for our “minister” positions. Below are ten questions that have prompted the most telling responses from candidates. In some cases we have them answer in writing so they have time for an in-depth response – whereas other times, I prefer to have them answer in person (I’ve noted my preference of written or in person after each questions below).
Since I want to understand the person’s spiritual reality and not their preferred or aspirational spiritual life, I try to ask questions just a little bit differently so they’re unlikely to reply with their stock “Sunday School” answer.
- Describe for us your ministry path and the spiritual markers along the way. (Written)
- In your spiritual walk, how has God used adversity to mature you? (Written)
- Share how you have discipled people over the last five years. (In person)
- Please share your spiritual disciplines and practices. (In person)
- What evidence is there in your life and ministry that you are leading in the power of the Spirit, and not out of your own abilities and strengths? (Written or in person)
- What steps do you take to guard and cultivate your integrity? (In person)
- Are there any areas in your life that could be considered by Biblical standards to be out of balance or in excess? (Written or in person)
- What steps do you follow when you sense disagreement or conflict with someone in your church? Give us an example where you used the steps. (Written)
- In what areas of your life is it easiest to demonstrate self-control? In what areas is it most difficult? (In person)
- What are you reading in Scripture currently? What are you learning? (In person)
Just as a practical takeaway, make sure you’re prayed up before you host these interviews. Further, I’ve found it helpful to pray underneath my breath multiple times during an in-person interview, “Let me listen the way You’d listen, and not listen out of human-ness.”
Interview and hire well — it matters to our churches.
My most recent blog post relayed my six go-to initial interview questions. The post included discovery questions we utilize early on in our selection process for church staff. But even those questions follow the “cultural” interview which I described in a previous post titled, “Key Interview Component: the Cultural Call.”
Below are five of the regular interview questions used when moving from discovery phase to the drill down phase. These five questions will allow a deep dive, and are solid questions we use to begin that process. They can be used for any kind of staff role in our church, but most often are used with ministerial positions, and/or supervisor positions.
I hope these can help you in your hiring process – and next week on the blog I’ll share my go-to spiritual-depth interview questions.
- Describe the most persistent/entrenched problem in your current ministry/position. What are the key factors contributing to the continuation of this problem? What ideas do you have for alleviating the problem?
- Describe yourself in terms of emotional control. What sorts of things irritate you the most, or get you down in your ministry/position? How do you handle yourself under stress and pressure?
- What are the biggest risks you have taken in recent years? Include one risk that worked out well… and one risk that did not work out so well.
- To what extent do you solicit ideas and input from others? Give an example of a time where ideas from others helped you. How do you adapt your communication style to fit the needs or personalities of others?
- What deadlines do you typically face in your current position? How do you go about prioritizing your work? What situations or problems do you have the greatest sense of urgency about?
P.S. on credit — I’m grateful to a church and its staff and volunteer leadership teams who have worked hard to create a comprehensive Selection Toolkit, which most of this material comes from.
Whether interviewing a candidate for a teaching pastor position or an administrative support position, these are my go-to questions that continue to give me insight into the person during my initial interviews. Maybe they can help you in your selection process…
- You have several strengths (and I would name some), but tell me what the “shadow side” to these are. Tell me about how you’ve seen a strength of yours come out as a negative in certain settings.
- Which of the nine “fruit of the Spirit” is most evident in your life currently, and which “fruit” is least evident in this season of your life?
- When you’ve had a hard day or a hard month, how do you typically re-energize?
- Thinking about supervisors you’ve had in the past, tell me a supervising-characteristic one of them had that really was good for you to work under. Next, tell me a supervising-characteristic that really bugged you at times.
- What does self-development look like for you? If you have intentional practices, please describe.
- What is the greatest joy and greatest challenge in your current position?
These aren’t original. They don’t always provide significant insight. But for me, more often than not, I learn something valuable from the person’s response.
In the selection process for my church, we have a robust Selection Tool Kit (this is where some of the above questions came from). And these six questions represent a small fraction of the questions we ask. These six are typically asked in the first couple of interviews (discovery phase), and as we move along, they get more in depth. But as I’ve written about before, you need to model transparency in your interviewing exchange, and when possible, ask open-ended questions that provide an opportunity for you to see them in reality and not in an aspirational version of themselves.