Ministers Guide

Minister's Guide
GREAT Resources

29 Questions to ask a Pulpit Committee 

For the Minister

Minister's Guide to the Search Committee Interview, from the Illinois Baptist State Association 
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A series of TV ads uses the slogan "image is everything." In job interviews, image is not everything but it is important. The way you dress contributes to that image. 

Little has been written about dressing for interviews and that is what makes the following information, adapted from Campus to Career in 48 Hours , helpful.

Creating the right appearance is but one of many ways you prepare for the interview—and everything you do makes a job offer more likely!

Colors best suited for the office: navy, deep blue, dark brown, tan, beige, grey


  • Attractive, controlled hair style

  • Clean, trimmed head and facial hair

  • Clean, pressed suit

  • Conservative tie

  • Polished shoes in good repair

  • Clean fingernails

  • Minimal or no cologne

  • Clean fingernails

  • Moderate jewelry

  • No gum or food

  • Positive attitude


  • Attractive, controlled hair style

  • Minimal make-up/ perfume

  • Clean, tailored dress

  • Polished pumps in good repair

  • No chipped fingernail polish

  • Moderate jewelry

  • No gum or food

  • Positive attitude


The following information is designed to assist you in your search and interview preparation.

Suggested questions are intended for your use in the interview and need to be adapted to each individual and church situation.

Church Staff Development Ministries

Illinois Baptist State Association 11/01/01


Prepare a list of . . .

Church committees

Names of committee members

Staff positions: Paid Volunteer

Choir Dir. ____________________$________hrs_____



Song leader __________________$________hrs_____

Organist _____________________$________hrs_____

Pianist _______________________$________hrs_____

Volunteer ___________________$________hrs_____


Request a copy of . . .

___ Annual Report

___ Budget for Current Year

___ Budget for Previous Year

___ By-laws

___ Constitution

___ Job Descriptions

___ Organizational Chart (shows accountabilities)

___ Policies

Ask about salary and benefits . . .


Salary $____________________________

Housing $____________________________

Protection benefits

Insurance $____________________________

Retirement $____________________________

Disability $____________________________

Soc. Security $____________________________

Ministry-related expenses

Travel $______________________

Hospitality $______________________

Books/Publications $______________________

Professional dues $______________________

Conventions $______________________

Cont. Education $______________________



If parsonage is included, note condition.


Parsonage value $_____________________garage___

What is included, and what is condition?

Refrigerator Stove Washer & Dryer

# of Bedrooms Closets Storage space

# of Baths Carpeted Basement

Air-Conditioning Dining Rm. Attic

Dishwasher Fireplace Rec.

Request Information on . . .

Evangelistic Ministries

Evangelism strategies being utilized, such as

___ Outreach events

___ Visitation

___ Neighborhood Bible Studies

___ Direct Mail

___ Door to Door

___ Tracts

___ Concerts

___ Outdoor Services

Other: ________________________________________

Are these outreach ministries on the calendar and in

the budget? __________________________________

Senior Adult Ministries

Is there a Senior adults ministry?__________________

Sunday School class? ___________________________

Bible Study? ___________________________________

Events? _______________________________________


Request Information on. . .

Youth Ministries

Is there a Youth ministry? _______________________

Youth Pastor? _________________________________

Junior High Sunday School class? ________________

Senior High Sunday School class? ________________

Bible studies? _________________________________

Youth Groups? ________________________________

When do groups meet? ________________________

Events: _______________________________________


Ask about the church’s history . . .

What is the founding story of the church?

What are the growth statistics for the past five years?

Ask to review Annual Church Profile for past five

years. Study membership statistics/giving patterns.

Why is membership and/or giving in decline, if this is

the case?

What plans do they have to remedy this?

What, if any, are the roadblocks to implementing

their strategy to increase membership and giving?

Have there been any church splits/divisions/fights?

Are there legal matters pending in the


Ask about vision and goals . . .

What is the church’s Mission Statement?

Is there a Vision Statement, as well?

Are there plans for future growth and ministry?

Is there a five-year plan? A ten-year plan?

Are there specific, written, measurable goals?

What are they?

What size do you want the church to be in 1 year;

3 years; 5 years; 10 years?

What is the strategy for reaching these goals?

What changes need to be made in the next 10 years

to accomplish these goals?

Are there specific building plans for the near future?

Ask about current issues . . .

What is the church’s traditional stand on social issues

such as divorce and remarriage, etc.?

How does the church handle disputes/conflicts, and

does it have a specific policy?

Is the church in conflict at this time?

What is the community’s image of the church?

How many attend Sunday morning worship?

How many non-members are active?

What specific people groups is the church trying to

reach at this time?

Is there an active Evangelism Committee or team?

How are people coming to Christ?

What evangelistic tool works best?

What new ministries has the church initiated in the

last three years?

What kind of music is used during worship services?

(traditional, hymns, choruses, contemporary)

How would you describe your worship services?

(formal, informal, quiet, liturgical, exciting, noisy,

worshipful, inspiring, free, orderly)

What instruments are used during worship?

(organ, piano, guitar, drums, brass, choir)

Is there a Sunday School teacher training program?

Are there qualified adult Sunday School teachers?

Do you have trouble finding teachers?

How many adults attend Sunday School?

Are the youth involved in the life of the church?

How many children attend Sunday School (0-12)?

Ask about sermon presentation

techniques . . .

What kind of preaching does the church prefer?

•Animated •Controversial•Creative •Deeper life•Discipleship •Evangelistic•Expositional •Family•Follow Christian Calendar•Grace-filled •How to…•Humorous •Illustrated (Power Point)•Intellectual•Logical points•Monologue •Outline in bulletin•Practical •Serious•Sermon series •Social issues•Storytelling •Straight exposition•Textual topical•Theological•Topical •Witty

What does the church say are the most important pastoral strengths?

•Administration •Altar calls•Associational leader•Be a friend •Church leadership•Committee work •Community leader•Conflict resolution •Continuing education•Counseling •Denominational leader•Discipling •Evangelism•Hospital visits •Planning activities•Planning & vision •Study of Word•Teaching •Training•Visit members •Visit new attendees


Ask about pastoral expectations . . .

Who were the last three pastors?

What was the previous pastor’s length of stay?

What conditions caused this pastor to depart?

What were the previous pastor’s strengths?

What were the previous pastor’s weaknesses?

How do you expect a new pastor to be different?

How do you expect a new pastor to be similar?

Is there a written job description for pastor?

Describe the role of the pastor within this church.

How is the pastor made accountable? Evaluated?

How would you prioritize the pastor’s activities?

Hours expected weekly? Days off?

Counseling load?

Outside speaking ministries permitted?

Is time absent for continuing education permitted?

What is the preaching schedule?

_______________ AM ________________ PM

Are sermons taped?

Is there a tape library?

What are the expectations of the pastor’s wife?

What are the expectations of the pastor’s children?

Request Information on . . .

Complete list of all church positions and names of

personal currently serving in that position.

Adult Ministries

How many Sunday School classes? ______________

Are Sunday School classes age-grouped or topical?

Home Bible studies? How many_________________

Care Groups? How many______________________

Support Groups:_______________________________

Children’s Ministries

Is there a nursery? _____________________________

How many Sunday School classes? ______________

Is there Toddler Church? _______________________

Is there Primary or Junior Church? _______________

Vacation Bible School? _________________________

Youth programs:_______________________________

Events: _______________________________________

Request Information on. . .

Single Adult Ministries

Is there a Single adults ministry? _________________

Sunday School class? ___________________________

Bible Study? ___________________________________

Events? _______________________________________

Worship and Music Ministries

Style of music in worship: _______________________

Adult choir? ___________________________________

Children’s choir? _______________________________

Drama group? _________________________________

Other: ________________________________________

Special events/Presentations: ____________________

Top of Page

29 Questions to Ask the Pulpit Committee

Leadership Journal, Summer 1998

What you gotta know before you go.

by Ginger E. McFarland

One pastor recently said, "I would rather ride a bucking bronco of a church than try to prop up a dead mule." It's helpful to know if you're going to get either of those beasts before you mount up.

Just as the search committee is going to be thorough, the candidate needs to be thorough, as well. Asking is critical. Here is a list of strategic questions to help you discern any potential problems when you're seeking that "perfect" church.

1. How would you describe your church? Does the committee tend to define itself by its past, or is it excited about dreams for the future? Do the core values look inward or outward? Rick Ezell, pastor of Naperville (Illinois) Baptist Church, believes it's similar to describing an individual: "I can say, 'I'm tall, but I'd like to be taller. I'm growing, but I'm not growing like I should.' I'm listing a lot of negative inflections." That may point to some past conflict or a negative spirit.

2. Why was the church started? Was the church born out of a split? "Even if it's 100 years old," says Leroy Armstrong, pastor of Greater Good Hope Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, "there's a good possibility that through the generations since the split, that spirit of fighting might still be in the church."

3. What is this church's purpose? Have they defined its mission? Does it have a well-thought-out strategy?

4. What is your unique role in this community? What sets this church apart from other churches in terms of character, culture, staff? What specific people groups does it reach out to, or what specific ministries does it operate that no other church in this community does?

5. How would a neighbor around the church portray this congregation? "When I asked this of one search committee, a couple of guys looked at me like, 'Why would you want to know that?'" said John Beukema of the Village Church in Western Springs, Illinois. "That told me a bundle about them. They were not thinking about outreach."

6. What is this church's theology? Does the church have a commitment to follow Jesus Christ as head?

7. How would you describe the atmosphere of

  • worship

  • small group Bible studies

  • board meetings

  • business meetings

  • special events.

Do members of the committee agree or do they give opposite answers?

8. What are the three areas you feel must be changed in this church? What three areas definitely should not be changed? The answers should tell you how the church perceives its greatest needs and greatest strengths.

9. How many strong ministries does your church have? The number of ministries will indicate how involved the membership is.

10. What new ministry initiatives has the church launched in the last five years? If none, you may encounter the we've-never-done-it-that-way-before syndrome.

11. If you knew you couldn't fail, what would your dreams be for this church? Leroy Armstrong recognizes that "invariably the pulpit search committee is made up of influential, respected people. If they don't have any dreams, it's not likely that many in the congregation will have any."

12a. What are the statistics on church membership for the last five years? With these you can get clues to past conflicts or splits, or if the general momentum is up or down. If membership is declining, the key question is:

12b. Why do you think there has been a membership decline? Churches that are declining or in a plateau may still be healthy. Perhaps the general population in that area is receding.

13. Do you have a plan for growth? How open are they to a new pastor's plan? Are you willing to pay the price of change that's going to be necessary for this church to grow?

14. What is the single biggest obstacle to growth in this church? John Beukema observes: "If they all agree on one single biggest obstacle, then you probably know the thing you need to tackle. If they list a bunch of obstacles, all of which may be true, then your work will be harder." Either you need align their perceptions, or the situation is complicated.

15. What role do you feel laypersons should play in the development of a strong, growing congregation? Everyone will affirm the role of laity, but assumptions about hospital visitation, decision making, budgeting, and vision will vary.

16. When did your last new members join? What would they say was the factor that attracted them to your church? If the last new members joined three years ago, there could be some stale ministries at work.

17. Is there any conflict in the church now? How did the church resolve conflict in the past? Conflict shouldn't surprise anyone, but major conflict, especially in the last year or two will have a great bearing on the immediate ministry.

18. What issues have regularly caused friction in this church? Consider whether these are the real issues or symptoms of something else.

19. What is it that sparked your interest in me as a candidate? Why do you think I will help this church? The answers should shed light on their expectations.

20. What were the strengths and weaknesses of your previous pastor? If he or she was a short-term pastor, ask about his or her predecessor. Do they speak of the pastor critically or appreciatively?

Churches often react to the weaknesses of their previous pastor by looking for an opposite, but their expectations have probably been shaped significantly by the previous pastor.

21. What has been the tenure of previous pastors/staff members? If the church has a pattern of short pastorates, the trend will likely continue. Chris Zorn, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Sebastian (Florida) says, "It's like a divorce. Statistics show a 60 percent divorce rate among remarriages. People get used to breaking off relationships. It becomes easier to do."

If the pastor retired, will he remain a member of the church? "It's good to know that that pastor will not continue to run the church without the title," says Leroy Armstrong. "You'll put forth proposals and the people won't look to you; they'll look to the previous pastor."

If the pastor was involved in a scandal, then, says Armstrong, "I better be prepared to walk a very tight integrity rope."

22. How does this church view its staff? Are they viewed as professionals, as ministers who've been trained and called of God? Or are they viewed more like hired help? Are they understaffed, overstaffed, properly staffed? Are there some staff members the board wants to get rid of? Are they going to ask you to fire anyone?

23. What is the structure for responsibility in staff positions? To whom do I answer? And who answers to me? What is the supervisory chain? What are your expectations of a staff member? Discuss your leadership style and they expect differences to be resolved.

24. Has the interim period been redemptive and healing? Was there an interim pastor or did the existing staff fill that capacity? One pastor who inherited a staff warns that when existing staff shoulders the interim responsibilities, "attachments will be made and responsibilities owned by associate staff that they may be reluctant to let go of when the new senior pastor comes in."

25. What is the role of the senior pastor? Sometimes that is assumed, but not always defined in candidating situations. What are the expectations in terms of preaching, teaching, counseling, relationship with the governing board, office hours, administration, and visitation? Do staff members report to the pastor, to the board, or to the congregation? What is the relationship between staff and elected church leaders' responsibilities?

26. Will the pastor be given freedom to shape a ministry team that is sympathetic to his or her vision? In some situations it's understood that with the arrival of a new pastor, staff members tender their resignations to let him or her determine who to keep. In other situations, nobody tenders a resignation and the pastor can't ask for it.

27. What are your expectations of my family? Do they expect my spouse to be at every church event? Has the pastor's spouse traditionally taken on certain responsibilities? If my children attend a youth group at a neighboring church, would that be a problem?

28. Does the congregation have a policy of reviewing the pastor's salary package each year? An adjustment, at least for cost-of-living increases, is standard.

29. Does the call committee represent and overlap with the lay leadership? One candidating pastor discovered that the search committee had only one member from the church council. "Each committee was operating off of different pages," he said. "Only at the end of the interview process was there cross pollination of ideas or identification of issues. That became a foundation for conflict."

Once you're farther into the process, you may consider asking to see other pieces of information: newsletters, church bulletins, financial statements, meeting minutes.

Newsletters will show what kinds of activities are important to them. Financial records will tell if the total church revenue has declined over a course of years.

Even board meeting minutes can be educational. As one pastor said, "If you see a few names constantly documented as the ones who put forth a motion, that may tell you whom you'll be dealing with as pastor." And maybe you should direct further questions to them.

Ginger E. McFarland is editorial coordinator of Leadership.

Copyright © 1998 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal. For reprint information call 630-260-6200 or e-mail
Summer 1998, Vol.XIX, No. 3, Page 97