student ministry, youth ministry, interview questions, ministry interview

5 Interview Questions Every Candidate Should Ask

By Tripp Atkinson April 18, 2017

A church recently asked me what questions their search committee should be prepared to answer when interviewing a candidate. Below are the top five questions I think every interviewer should be prepared to answer and every candidate should ask.

An interview process is a two-way street. In the nervousness of making a good impression and thinking through answers to a million hypothetical questions, it is easy for a candidate to leave an interview having learned very little about the potential employer.

When you’re a potential candidate, go into an interview prepared to learn all you can about the history, identity, vision, and operational organization of a potential employer. Don’t shy away from asking tough questions and be sure to get as much as you can in writing.

While you will need to ask hundreds of questions in an interview process, if you forget every other question, these five will help you gain valuable insight into who they are and what they value:

1) What does success in this position look like?

How a search committee answers this question will give you valuable insight into who they are and what they really value. Each pastor and leadership team has their own ideas about what success looks like in ministry. This question not only ensures the search committee has come to a consensus on what success looks like, but it also informs you of the clearly defined goal of the position.

“Once you have an idea of what success looks like for your position, it’s important that you determine how your success will be measured.”

2) How will my performance be measured?

This question highlights organizational values and operational dynamics. Once you have an idea of what success looks like for your position, it’s important that you determine how your success will be measured. While ministry success cannot be fully measured with numbers and spreadsheets, you must know what defined metrics will be used to measure your performance. You must also understand the process for measuring success. Which superior and/or committee will be evaluating your success? What opportunities will be presented for performance review/feedback along the way?

3) What (or who) will be the biggest roadblocks to my success in this position?

This question not only provides valuable insight for the candidate, but it also helps the search committee keep unrealistic expectations in check. Chances are a search committee knows exactly what challenges and obstacles lie ahead for a candidate, even if they have not openly discussed them. Often times, in an effort to present the church in the best possible light, these challenges are not openly discussed until after a hire is made. Many a pastor has been caught off guard by significant challenges their first week on the job. As much as both the candidate and search committee want to make a good impression, information and transparency are critical in every step of the interview process. (You both will find out the truth about each other eventually.)

4) How will the church (leadership, etc.) support me in overcoming these challenges/obstacles?

This question informs the candidate of what support they can expect while reminding the search committee that one person cannot solve all of the church’s problems. Discussing this question sets the tone for a team approach to ministry. A wise search committee should see this question as a sign of maturity and perspective rather than a lack of confidence in one’s ability to solve problems.  (Candidates: If a search committee does not know how to answer this question, offer to revisit the question at a later meeting. There is always a chance that if they had a good answer the position you are discussing would not be vacant.)

“It is so important to define expectations and boundaries up front and ask the committee how those defined expectations will be communicated to the church at large.”

5) What are the church’s expectations of my spouse?

If you are married, this may be the most important question you ask. How a committee answers this question gives insight into how the church views the position and how they view the family of the one in that position. If a committee has never answered this question, they may not even realize the expectations they have been placing on ministers’ spouses. It is so important to define expectations and boundaries up front and ask the committee how those defined expectations will be communicated to the church at large. It is difficult enough for a minister to be faced with unrealistic expectations of a church, but it is debilitating for a spouse faced with them. Clear and thorough communication on this issue could save you a lot of heartache in the future, both at church and home.

Spend as much time preparing to ask questions as you do to answer them. Remember that you are interviewing them as they interview you. The more thorough the communication is during the interview phase, the more insight you will both have into each other and the less likely issues will arise from miscommunication weeks and months into the job.

This post was originally published on Tripp’s Blog. To see 50 more question ideas visit: http://trippatkinson.com/2017/02/5-interview-questions/.

Tripp Atkinson

About the Author

Tripp Atkinson

Tripp Atkinson is a pastor, speaker, writer, and coach.  Tripp is highly driven to not only challenge and equip students himself, but also empower others to be successful in leading students. Tripp, his wife Courtney, and their three children live in the Metro Atlanta area where he currently serves as the Student Pastor at Sugar Hill […]

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