Interviews can be intimidating. Not always, but they can be. Especially when you are sitting with a search committee and they are shooting off questions one right after the other. You want to answer them all honestly, you want to make a good impression, because ultimately you want a new position. But interviews are not only a church asking you questions. There are ministry interview questions that you can ask that will help determine the direction God would have you take, and to see if you would be a good fit in the open role.
I have sat through many interviews, some worked out and some didn’t. And I have been through a few unfortunate circumstances that helped me ask different questions during my next interview.
These questions assume you think the position will be a good fit. I don’t think these are all first interview questions. I would ask one or two depending on the conversation, and the rest would be asked later. I think there are times that the conversation progresses and you hear something that sends up the red flag and you know this is not the right position for you. Other times, the conversation is great and you keep moving forward. I added a few of these questions so I could ask later in the process based on past negative experience. I have been told more than once that no one has ever asked certain questions.
This is not a complete list, but this is a good starter list of ministry interview questions for you to ask next time you are being interviewed for a ministry position.
What does success look like?
This is a big question: What makes a ministry successful? Success is different for different people. What was considered successful in your last role may not be enough here. Hopefully spiritual growth for you, your family, and the kids in your ministry is high on the list. Often numbers are tied to success. When you hear the answer to this question you will know if you are ok with that and able to be successfull.
What is the leadership structure?
It is important to understand the ‘chain of command’. Depending not the size of the church and staff, you may or may not report directly to the lead pastor. You may report to a family pastor who reports to the lead pastor. You may have some staff or volunteers that report to you. The more you understand the leadership structure, the better informed you will be.
What is the staff culture?
Depending on the personality if the leadership, I have found that the culture usually falls within two categories. The staff usually will operate as a family or as a business. I have seen and interacted with both styles, and I prefer the family culture. It better fits my personality and leadership style. It would be good for you to figure out what culture you prefer so you know ahead of time. If you are expecting a family culture and end up in a business culture, you are potentially facing difficult times.
What has worked well before?
Knowing some things that have worked well in the past will help you understand the personality of the church and community before you are there.
What hasn’t worked well before?
This question can help you avoid mistakes before you make them. Maybe you are used to VBS being a big summer event, but that may not work out well in the potential town. Rather than gear yourself up for something that you know well or are used to, you can save yourself some hassle by finding out some things ahead of time that just didn’t work.
What happened to the last person in this position?
It is always good to know why the last person left. Sometimes it is personality conflict, not doing a good job, family circumstances, or it could simply be God moved them somewhere else.
What is your leadership style?
Knowing the personality style, or leadership style of those you will be working for will be a huge benefit for you. Multiple interviews I have been through had a personality or leadership assessment as part of the process. As important as it is for the church staff to get to know your style, you need to know their style as well.
How involved is the board?
Some churches have a board in place as advisors to the Pastor. Some boards control finances, so if you have a budget request, you may need to speak to the board. Other churches do not have an active board (and lack of accountability). This question was added to my list after an unfortunate set of circumstances led me to find out the church board was a board in name only and had no authority to step in when the pastor had trouble. The church lost a lot of people as a result. Knowing this ahead of time will help you make your decision.
What are the expectations for my spouse?
Hopefully there are not any expectations for your spouse, because you are the one being hired, but that is not always the case. I know of one instance this question was asked and the wife of the candidate was expected to be a Sunday school teacher for younger kids. Now this is fine if the wife would have offered, but it should not be expected. You could save yourself some hassle knowing this ahead of time.
What kind of events are expected?
This will help you get a feel for event that have been done in the past, as well as help you know what to expect. Is there a big Easter Egg Extravagenza? Fall Festival? Children’s Choir at Christmas? Once you decide if this position is for you, knowing the event schedule will help you start out on the right foot.
So what would you add?
What questions would you add to this list? Leave a comment and let us know!