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Strategies for a Successful Interview
 We recently asked 5 pastors to share important strategies when interviewing and considering a call to pastor a new church — Here’s what they shared with us:
Ask the Right Questions
By Mark Witas

When I interview with a church, these are the questions I usually ask:
1) May I see a copy of your church financial statements for the last 5 years?

2) Has the church grown, stayed the same, or shrunk in attendance in the last 5 years? And why?

3) Detail how your church is a part of what is going on in your community.

4) When did the church last host an evangelistic series? Was it successful?

5) What kind of small group ministries does your church offer?

6) Where do the people who attend your church come from? (If it’s not a true community church but a destination church, I’m usually not interested.)

7) How many pastors have led this church in the last 20 years? Why did they leave?
Mark Witas is lead pastor for the Pacific Union College Church in Angwin, CA

Find Chemistry
By Ron Aguilera
Every effective pastor – church relationship requires great chemistry. To find out if you have it with a church that has invited you to interview, you need to ask the right questions and you need to listen carefully to the answers, not only to what is said, but to what is not said or left out. Here are some important approaches, questions and statements to your conversation together:
  • Cast a big vision. Look for their reactions, listen carefully to their responses. Especially pay attention to the tone of the responses.
  • Ask them to describe the culture of their church and the things the church particularly values.
  • Ask them, “What does this church offer a new pastor?”
  • Ask them how they determine whether or not there is chemistry between the pastor and the church.
Ron Aguilera is vice-president for administration in the Illinois Conference
Speak to Your Passion
By Don Smith

The ability to effectively communicate your ministry passion and how it will impact the church and community in an interview is important for two reasons. First, we often assume we know what our passions are but fail to actually sit down and process through the areas of ministry that we are passionate about, give us energy, and define the areas in which we truly love to work.

Understand, ministry requires that we work in areas that may not be our strengths, but it is important to have a healthy balance of ministry passion to avoid burnout. It is also important to understand how your passion has impacted your ministry, church, and community in the past. This process alone is helpful in self-assessment and if you are honest with yourself it will help you grow as a minister as well.

The second reason this is important it will help you and the interviewers see if there is a connection/resonance or a non-connection/dissonance with the potential church community you are interviewing for. Once you know who you are and what gets you really excited about ministry and where you are most effective you can now communicate that with the potential church team/leaders and share a vision for how that aspect of your ministry will impact the church. It should feel like “vision casting” and you should be able get a sense if it is inspiring to them or is a fit for their community. 

Don Smith is transitioning from associate pastor of the Palo Cedro, CA Church to senior pastor of the Santa Rosa, CA Church

Cast Vision
By Jennifer Scott
Every church has a different ministry personality.  We all share the same Great Commission, yet there are distinctions in each congregation that create unique congregational vision.  They are thinking about those visions in an interview and those visions are defining their desires for the next steps in ministry.  When a pastor steps onto the holy ground of the interview, it is really helpful to get clear and be intuitive to that vision.  Is it about growing their schools?  Is it about evangelism?  Is it reaching out into the community?  Is it a church building project?  Is it inspiring worship services?  Is it reaching their youth?   Being able to talk with them about their passion can create a beautiful, holy ground, connection.  Like a great conversation, they must be understood.  Listen to them, ask questions that invite them share where they are at in that vision, why it is important to them, what has been their obstacles. 
Then it is the Pastor's opportunity, with all sincerity, to reveal your personal gifts, experiences and passions that speak to their vision.  You'll need to know yourself.  You'll know that you are sharing your true passions when you "light up" in your sharing.  Tap into and share those divine appointments in your ministry past where God has blessed you in like missions. It's inspiring to everyone to hear where God has lead in the past. This inspires hope to imagine, that what God has done in your past, he can do again in their future!  May the interview be left with a desire for more, with a question of intrigue... What might God create next if a connection between this special congregation and YOU be linked for a time such as this?!
Jennifer Scott is the senior pastor of the Keene, TX Church

Experience Worship
By Stephen Richardson

Prior to being interviewed, a Sabbath morning visit to the prospective church affords a pastor the opportunity to learn good information by being observant. The visit can be particularly effective when anonymity is maintained, with no undue attention influencing the normal church environment. The pastor should examine the physical appearance of the property, viewing it through the eyes of a first time visitor.

Greeters and ushers strongly influence first impressions. How warmly is one greeted upon entering the church? What temperament does the congregation display? How well executed is the Sabbath School (Adult and children’s divisions)? What characterizes the worship style? What constitutes the demographic composition of the congregation and its immediate community? Are there any exemplary church ministries? How effective is the use of media (print, visual and audio)? Are the church’s mission and vision clearly communicated?

The resultant answers coupled with other first time impressions serve to inform the future interviewee's dialogue.

Stephen Richardson is ministerial director for the Alleghany East Conference