Questions churches should ask when hiring a preacher but don’t.

I recently read four want ads posted by churches who were trying to find a preacher. The man with the cape could never do all these churches expect. I once wrote a parody of such a want ad. It is astonishingly stupid to ask so much of one man! But that is not the focus of this post.

The ads are dead give-aways of the questions the pulpit search committee will likely ask.

  • Where were you educated and what degree have you earned?
  • How long have you been a minister?
  • What churches have you served and did they grow?
  • Are you married?
  • Have you been divorced?
  • Do you have children?
  • Are your finances in order?
  • What is your vision for a church you serve?
  • Can you live on $***** per month?
  • Etc., etc., etc.

And of course they will want to hear the guy preach, either by a recorded sermon or perhaps in person. The questions above have very little to do with the ministry of leading a church as a preacher, pastor/teacher, or whatever your group calls him.

I have served twice on search committees and both times we hired good, godly men. I have also been used as a reference by ministers seeking a job. One fellow from Arkansas called me to ask about a candidate he and his fellow committee members were considering. He asked “Is he a dynamic pulpit man?” I answered with a question, “Why is that important to you?” My question was met with an uncomfortable silence and then he finally sounded apologetic and unsure saying, “Because we want a very good preacher?”

I explained to this guy that a very good orator, with great credentials, can be a lazy jerk who does all that he does in the energy of the flesh and can not help grow Christians toward maturity and Christ likeness. I suggested that the man go back to his committee and that they should have an extended time of prayer and seeking the mind of the Lord about what their church needed and then interview preachers. Of course he didn’t listen to my advice, and neither did my friend who I tried to talk out of taking the job and it was a disaster! They were the most immature bunch you could imagine. They made the Corinthians look really good!

What churches ought to ask.

  • How do you know you are a Christian? (If he doesn’t answer this one right the interview would be over and I would want to share the gospel with him.)
  • How did you make the decision to become a minister?
  • Tell us about your prayer life? Do you have specific answers to prayer?
  • How much time do you spend in an average week in Bible study?
  • Are you walking in the Spirit?
  • If we hire you will you love our people? (People can tell if you love them or if you are just doing your job.)
  • Is your vision to help us grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, to know him more? (If not what is it?)
  • Do you preach the gospel, regularly and often?
  • How many people have you shared the gospel with in the last 6 months one on one?

There are more, but you get the idea. You see, most churches want a polished preacher who is brilliant and funny in the pulpit, loved and respected by everyone in town, and they want their numbers to increase, both in members and money. And, they often get exactly what they want.

What is your church (or mine) doing for the people of your community that could not be done by a good civic club? The mission of the church is to make men fit for heaven. If lives are not regularly being changed, if spiritual transformation is not changing sinners into saints, if the hungry are not fed, if the mourners have no one to weep with them, if the prisoners have no visitors, if people are not having personal encounters with the living Christ, when your church needs a preacher the first list of questions will do just fine.

If you want a man who is a man of God, who knows God intimately, loves people where they are, like they are, and has no greater passion than to introduce men and women and boys and girls to the living Christ, maybe the first list of questions are not the right ones.


23 comments on “Questions churches should ask when hiring a preacher but don’t.

  1. Royce, your questions are absolutely the best ever! Perhaps we should come up with questions a preacher who is looking should ask a congregation he is considering.

    I agree Bob. Thanks for your comment.


  2. Royce,

    Excellent questions. I hope you’re on the search committee the next time I interview somewhere. 🙂

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

    Thanks friend. I really appreciate the work you are doing.

    God bless,

  3. Excellent questions. Yours are as good as I’ve seen.

    I’d add something along the lines of, “How much are you willing to serve others?” and ask for examples. Jesus was preached and was spiritually prepared, but he also served others in his community.

    Great thoughts.

    Thanks Trey, good question! One that should be on the list for sure.


  4. Thanks for posting on this Royce. I could share some horror stories from my own and my friends experience with our traditional “preache parade” approach.

    Your post should be required reading for every church search committee.

  5. Why pray tell, do we need to “develop” such a list or define the “process” a church should use to hire a Preacher or that a Preacher might use to find a job preaching? Since we profess to follow the Bible, why can we not simply look it up in the NT bible and learn from God’s Word exactly how this should be done?

    Evidently, it isn’t quite that simple. I like you theory but how would that work in almost all congregations?

    Love you bro’,

  6. As a youth minister, I once had a church ask for my resignation. The reason cited was that 70 people in the church were concerned about the spiritual welfare of their children. Puzzled by this remark, I asked the elders if I had ever done or said anything that did not reflect the character of the Christ (though I am certainly not perfect). They admitted they had not, but still asked me to leave. This once large church no longer exists. I would feel vindicated, but the mulitple stories of pain I have heard from former members doesn’t allow such gloating…only sorrow for what may have been. I am no longer a paid minister in the local church, finding ministry outside those walls imminently satsifying.

    I have also thought several times since that all job descriptions for ministers should begin, “Reflects the beauty of our Lord and Savior in word and deed.” Perhaps then, churches would shine from their sanctuaries, rather than shuttering their stained- glass windows.

  7. The biggest and number one question that should always be asked is “WHAT IS YOUR SOUND DOCTRIN!” If he replies simply that Jesus was the Son of God and died on the Cross for all of our sins then just continue your search. My sound doctrin is two pages long in a font of 12.


    The problem with that question is that some terrible, unbiblical, things are taught in the name of “Sound Doctrine”. From cult leaders like David Koresh and Jim Jones to false teachers like Benny Hinn, everyone claims the Bible as their authority.

    What is “Sound Doctrine” to you might well be sound doctrine but It might be foolishness. I prefer to ask specific questions, looking for specific answers. For instance a man may have all the points down pat on his doctrinal statement and not have a clue how, or on what basis, God justifies ungodly sinners. If a man is not right on Jesus and the gospel story he is not fit for a pulpit.


  8. I really appreciate your list and would love to see what you think potential Pastors need to ask Elders/search committees. I created some questions based off what you have here, but I am certain there might be others I’m missing.

    1. How do you know you are a Christian?
    2. Share about your prayer life. Do you have specific answers to prayer?
    3. How much time do you spend in an average week in Bible study?
    4. How many people from the church could do your job as Elder?
    5. Can you follow the Sr Pastor’s lead when you have no guarentee about the outcome?
    6. How are you loving to the congregation? (People can tell if you love them or if you are just doing your job.)
    7. If nothing else could happen, what would you want to see accomplished here in the next 2 years.
    8. How many people have you shared the gospel with in the last 6 months one on one?
    9. How many people have you mentored one on one in the past 3 years?
    10. Are there any events or otherwise, that are a part of the churches DNA that cannot be touched?

    Any thoughts?

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  12. Another question that should be asked is how do you cope? There is a lot of emotion in being a good minister aka the pastoral care aspect. First, you go to a house where there has been a birth or adoption and there’s happiness. Next you go conduct a wedding, and there’s happiness there but then from the wedding reception you may go to the emergency room where one of your members has been in a wreck. That night you may be writing a funeral and sitting in a house of mourning. The next day you may be conducting a funeral and going right from the cemetery to your child’s first recital. There has to be down time and time for the minister to cope and clear his/her head. Does meditation or reading or running or fishing help him or her relax? Has the candidate thought about the lifestyle of a minister? Also, can the minister deal with someone is his/her own family being sick and dying and then trying to keep up the ministerial work at the same time? I know this is an old post but I wanted to contribute.

    • Thanks Jim, These are worth considering. They are very real possibilities that have no
      relationship to how well one can speak publicly, or what school you graduated.

  13. Exactly, I used to ask this question of aspiring medical students when I would interview them. They might have to go in one exam room and tell a patient that his cancer was in remission and the next patient might be told to go to his lawyer and get his business in order as he was terminal. The best candidate is one who can be human, sympathetic, and understanding, even if his/her sermon is not the finest.

      • I am a Scholar, teacher and speaker of the Bible. To be a preacher of Denominational churches is to pass the test of the elders. If the preacher tries to preach or teach past their doctrines, he is fired. The preachers work for the elders of the churches. A question the elders ask is do you believe in and accept our Doctrines. The problem about this is Doctrines is what stops the whole word of God from being taught. The whole Bible can be taught in seven to ten years without doctrines if the churches allow. God has no Doctrines but a way of life.

      • Paul told young Timothy do give attention to doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16). You don’t seem to care for it. Doctrine is simply a body of teaching, that’s all.

        I assume, since you mentioned “Denominational churches” that you are a church of Christ guy. Are you pretending that coc preachers don’t get fired for
        teaching something the elders disagree with?

        Finally, your conclusion that doctrine keeps the whole Bible from being taught is just plain silly. You can’t teach the Bible and not teach some doctrines.

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