Tag Archive: vetting

My 6 Go-To Interview Questions for Church Staff

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…

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. When you’ve had a hard day or a hard month, how do you typically re-energize?
  4. 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.
  5. What does self-development look like for you? If you have intentional practices, please describe.
  6. 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.

Happy interviewing–

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Past & Present: Disqualifiers From Being Hired


Man's Hand Resting on a Stack of Bibles, Isolated Background

©qingwa / Dollar Photo Club

At some point in a minister hiring process, the question needs to be asked: is there anything in your present or in your past that could disqualify you from this position? And that question needs to be answered, fully.

Many times, churches are afraid to ask that question. Their reasons might be:

  • I like this person. I don’t care about their past – I only care how they’re living now.
  • They’re not being considered for the Supreme Court. Does our due diligence need to be worthy of a Senate hearing?
  • Who are we to judge?
  • If they’ve asked for forgiveness from God, does it matter to us?
  • I really like the person, and if I learn something negative about them, I might have to go another direction (yes, this happens).

I think all those are fair sentiments. But ignoring this question about a candidate’s past can have consequences to your church, which makes it a question church leadership can’t ignore.

Learning about a suspect area of a candidate’s past or personal life doesn’t mean you have to respond by removing them from consideration. That is a discernment process for you and other decision makers to consider.

But as a church, you need to know. Once you know, you can then determine how to weight the issue exposed (if there is one).

As a candidate, you need to reveal your story. (I’ve written previously about the importance of total transparency in the interview and selection process.) You’re serving Christ. He knows what your past and your current private life is, and can handle how those areas are interpreted by the church you’re talking to. Show strong character, and trust God by freely sharing.

A church may find that your arrest for vandalism twenty years ago no longer matters to them. They may determine that your addiction to pornography or prescription drugs was prior to you knowing Christ, and no longer matters to them. But the point is, they know…

… They know this is your second marriage. They know you barely avoided divorce after you were unfaithful to your spouse. They know you’re currently being sued by a former church member. The point is that they know upfront.

Your transparency with the hiring leadership allows them to make the best decision for their church. And, should they move forward in the process, your transparency allows them to deal appropriately with future inquisitors. For example:

Church member: “Did you know ‘the candidate’ once… ?”

Hiring team: “Yes, we did know. ‘Candidate’ told us about the occurrence, explained it to us, and we considered it as a part of our selection process.”

Ministerial candidate: Be upfront about your past and current struggles. It may cost you a job opportunity, but you’ll have to trust God for that. Concealment is not a way to start a relationship.

Hiring teams: Don’t assume they’re going to spill the beans. Ask them point-blank about their past their current life. Here are some of the questions I ask prospective minister candidates:

  1. Do you have or have you had any addictions?
  2. Do you have any unhealthy or unbiblical preoccupations?
  3. Is there anything in your past that if it came to light, could cause the church or me concern?
  4. Is this your first marriage?

We all have to want what’s best for the Church. And depending on your role, that means admitting to some hard things or asking some hard questions.

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Key Interview Component: the Cultural Call

orange retro phone
Photo contributor: Grafner via iStockphoto®
As a church, before you start asking a lot of interview questions of a ministerial candidate,
first, talk about you.

We recently hired a campus and teaching pastor for our newest regional campus. For this pastor, I followed the same selection process we use for all ministerial hires. In one of his last group interviews with us, he commented about one step in the section process. He spoke about the value of the “cultural call” we had with him. At the time, he was unsure of the benefit of the hour long call that unpacked our church’s history, mission, community demographics and more. One it was a lot of information. Two, I was talking the whole time and not asking him any questions (even though he’s the candidate). And three, much of the information wasn’t about the specific church campus he would pastor. Despite his natural reservations, we’ve discovered great value in the “cultural call” (click here for PDF template). It was created prior to my time, I’m just a grateful recipient of the work. Benefits of the cultural call:

  1. It provides context for the ministry opportunity to the candidate
  2. It’s shameless about presenting the facts about your church’s situation (whether they’re selling points or not)
  3. It establishes things that are in place, and will not be heavily influenced by the candidate
  4. It lets a candidate know what they’re getting into
  5. It gives them an understanding of the church’s leadership structure and how decisions are made

When they’re done with the call, a candidate has a pretty clear picture of where the church is at, where it’s been, and where it’s going. They can then determine if it’s a church they want to be a part of.

Practical takeaway:

  • Create a “cultural call” template for your church to use in your own selection process. Ours can provide you an outline and then you can tweak it and add in your needed information.

There’s been a time this call ends the interview process with a candidate. When a candidate gets this much information, they can often determine whether they can see themselves serving with us. And in some cases, they don’t see themselves fitting well. And there are other times when our unapologetic explanation of our mission, objectives and where we see God leading us is a big affirmation to what God has burdened their heart with.

p.s. If you want to read about what I consider to be the needed first step in hiring, click here for a blog post and free resource.

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