5 Questions Prospective Pastors Rarely Ask Search Committees (But Should)

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"This church is nothing like the search committee described. They said they were ready for change. They are, as long as it doesn't affect them!"

The sentence is a direct quote from a pastor commenting on my blog. And many other pastors have expressed similar sentiments to me.

Of course, not all prospective pastors deal with pastor search committees. Still, the pastors inevitably have someone who interviews them, such as elders or judicatory bodies.

It is critical that prospective pastors ask questions about the church.

There are five questions, however, which are rarely asked. These questions could be key toward avoiding some of the unpleasant surprises many pastors encounter.

1. Why did the two previous pastors leave?

The answers to this question will give the prospective pastor clues to the way a church treats or mistreats its pastor. By the way, any prospective pastor must contact and speak with the immediate predecessor pastor. Skipping this step is neither wise nor healthy.

2. Is there a clear power group in the church?

As an alternative, the prospective pastor may ask who the most highly influential members in the church are. Make certain you know why they are deemed influential.

3. If I wanted to lead the church to make a $25,000 expenditure, what would the process look like?

This question can help you discern the level of bureaucracy and tradition in the church. It can also help you understand processes and power groups.

4. What are some one-word descriptors of your business meetings?

Some words should cause you take extra caution: divisive, angry, brutal, argumentative, painful, lengthy, and draining, for example.

5. Would each of you be willing to write down your top three expectations of a pastor?

Have a card ready for each person on the search committee. Ask them to write those expectations while you are there. Then read the expectations aloud to then entire group. It could be a wake-up call for the group. It could be a wake-up call for you.

You can learn so much about a church with these five simple questions. Of course, there are many other questions you should ask. These five just happen to be rarely asked but greatly helpful.

Originally posted at

Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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