written by: Keith Drury
In the Spring a young pastor’s fancy turns to… to… MOVING. Older men too, and women! Maybe it’s the Canada Geese. Entire flocks fly overhead honking jubilantly as they head for happier locations. They leave us behind, stuck with the same old folk, church, and parsonage.
Then, fellow pastors begin chattering about “what’s opening up.” Wouldn’t it be nice to get away? Wouldn’t it be nice to minister to a new congregation — fresh faces, new enthusiasm, interesting new possibilities — maybe even a better shopping mall? I recently asked a D.S. the standard Springtime question: “Expecting many changes this year.” His response: “I think so…the natives are restless this year.”
Are you restless this Spring? Are you feeling that migratory urge? If so, this newsletter is for you. It’s about leaving, and going… or staying, too.
I asked several friends a few years ago what questions should be asked before leaving the present church, before going to another, and what they’d ask the board at a prospective church. I merged their questions with mine and now have “more questions than you could ever ask.” Obviously, you would never ask all of these questions. However, by reading through the list, you might find several good ones to use.
There are other lists we need. I suppose someone ought to compile a list for boards interviewing prospective pastors. That’s a good thought for the “Idea farm.” And I guess someone might compose a list of questions a church needs to ask themselves before voting on their present minister… but that one I’m not touching with a ten-foot pole!
Thanks to Ron Wickard, Don Bray, Ron Kelly, Sam Crabtree, Rod Pickett, Harry Wood, Bern Lytle, Aaron Rummage, Tim Smith, John Bray, Jim Watkins, and Dan Wilson for their ideas for questions.
I. QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE RESIGNING
1. Is my work here really finished?
2. Am I simply depressed about a temporary situation?
3. Is this a “cycle of life” — do I want to move every Spring?
4. Is this church the problem, or am I the problem?
5. Am I running away from something I’ll eventually face elsewhere?
6. How much have I prayed — really prayed — about this?
7. How much has “better opportunity” influenced my restlessness?
8. Have I had an increasing uneasiness here?
9. Is the thought of moving constantly on my mind?
10. Am I willing to stay? How willing?
11. What would it take to persuade me to stay?
12. Is my own spiritual dryness the real issue?
13. Does my family tend to confirm it’s time to go?
14. What bugs me most about this church?
15. Why did God send me here in the first place?
16. What are the pros in staying here?
17. The cons?
18. What does the DS think?
19. Have I stayed at least three years?
20. What might I do differently here if I do stay?
II. QUESTIONS TO ASK A NEW CHURCH
(Pick & choose — Ask the right ones, not all of them, of course!)
1. What event has shaped your church most in the last ten years?
2. What is the seating capacity of your sanctuary? Your classrooms?
3. When was the last time your church undertook a building project?
4. What is the total amount of your indebtedness?
5. What is your average weekly income over the last year?
6. What percentage of your church families would you estimate tithe?
7. What is the percentage make-up by age of your Sunday attendance?
8. Interpret the growth chart of your church over the last 10 years.
9. Who were the last three pastors of your church? What single sentence would you give typifying their ministry?
10. How does your pastoral selection process work? Will you interview only one person at a time, taking that person all the way to a vote for acceptance or rejection before initiating another interview? Or, will you interview a variety of candidates, hearing several before you decide which one to recommend? Do you plan on a “trial sermon”? Are you thinking of interviews?
11. Are you a more board-led church or a pastor-led church?
12. How would you typify the worship style of your congregation?
13. How many people go soul winning each week?
14. How many people accepted Christ through your church last year?
15. How would you typify the way your church treats visitors?
16. Describe your community in a short paragraph (population, prominent employers, general atmosphere and attitude).
17. To what social group does this church appeal most?
18. Finish “Our church is probably best known in this community for…”
19. What is the most pressing need in your community right now?
20. Describe the largest church in your community or surrounding area.
21. When people have left your church, what were their reasons?
22. What are the 5 changes you’d like to see happen in your church?
23. How was your church started? Why?
24. Who do you feel has been your most ideal pastor? Why?
25. How many hours would you expect your new pastor to spend weekly in each of the following:
___Time with family
___Preparation for preaching
___Office & Administration
___Services & meetings
26. How do you make provisions for the pastor’s professional growth?
27. How would you describe the prayer support for your present pastor?
28. Why do you feel each of the last three pastors left here?
29. How faithful have you paid your district & denomination budgets?
30. What is the make-up of your present staff?
31. To hire an assistant, who would you say should do the interviewing?
32. List 5 qualities or abilities you’d like in your next pastor.
33. What are you doing to reach more people for Christ right now?
34. How do you determine pastoral support? (Process only, not amount… look for principles and attitudes; these are most important)
35. How long has each board member served on the LBA?
36. What present practices do you hope your new pastor will continue?
37. Does your church have a mission statement or purpose statement?
38. Compared to the budget, how has income been the last two years?
39. How many young people have gone into the ministry from this church?
40. How large do you think this church could be in one year?
41. What are 5 things you’d probably have to do to reach this number?
42. What individual missionaries does this church support?
43. How many new families came in this last year? Why did they come?
44. What are the five main strengths of your congregation?
45. What are the five main weaknesses?
46. How much indebtedness does your church have?
47. Finish: Our pastor would be successful if he…” (ask D.S. too)
48. What are the 3 big needs of this church during the next 12 months?
49. What are the last three innovations this church made? When?
50. Which past pastor’s wife was most suited for your church? Why?
51. What are 5 abilities or qualities you’d like in a pastor’s wife?
52. Are you open to employing the pastor’s wife in ministry?
53. Who schedules speakers & musical groups: Pastor or board?
54. If an item is in the budget can the pastor purchase it directly?
55. If someone gave $50,000 unrestricted, how would you spend it?
56. Describe the best years of this church’s history.
57. What are five things you certainly DON’T want in your new pastor?
58. What is the greatest spiritual weakness of the congregation?
59. What have been the major hindrances to further growth in the past?
60. Dilemma: Pastor must choose between leading the mid-week Bible study & attending the only night his daughter is in her Junior Play. Your advice?
61. Dilemma: Giving falls off by $10,000; where do you cut?
62. Dilemma: New kids in the youth group dressing in ‘punk’ clothes and smoking cigarettes in the parking lot. Action?
63. Describe the kind of music you especially like here.
64. If this church were to close down tomorrow, where would you attend?
65. What are the most important things I’d have to do in order to not be fired as your pastor. (Watch for priorities here.)
66. Do you consider yourself to be a “maverick church” or do you “do it by the book?”
67. If you were an unchurched person and came to this church, what three things would you like about it? Not like?
68. How many hours per week on the average do you spend working for this church beyond attending services?
69. How many people have you personally led to Christ this last year?
70. How many unsaved friends do you have in this area?
71. Do you expect to keep current staff ministers?
72. Describe the general philosophy of ministry in this district.
73. Reference: a family who started attending recently.
74. Reference: Someone who left the church dissatisfied.
75. Reference: Community person familiar with your church.
76. Reference: Recent evangelist or special speaker.
DON’T ASK: Do you want to grow. (They all say yes.)
DON’T ASK: About salary (Always negotiable later if they want you).
III QUESTIONS TO ASK MYSELF ABOUT THIS NEW CHURCH
How do their priorities match mine?
2. Are they basically positive or negative?
3. What would I have to concentrate on during the first year?
4. Does my spouse fit their expectations?
5. What is their self-image as a church?
6. Are they given to legalism? Antinomianism?
7. Do we agree on the role of the church in the community?
8. How much authority do they grant the pastor?
9. Will these board members serve for life, or do they rotate?
10. Who really has the power in this church? Can I work with him/her?
11. What do others say about this church?
12. Is this a soul-winning church?
13. Will my style of leadership fit here?
14. What of my social style? Does it match?
15. What are the ten best strengths of this church?
16. What are five weaknesses?
17. How would I change this church?
18. How might they change me?
19. If I were at that church now, would my present church look good?
20. How much have I prayed and listened to God about this?
© Keith Drury, 1985. You are free to transmit, duplicate or distribute this article for non-profit use without permission.
Keith Drury served The Wesleyan Church headquarters in Christian Education and Youth leadership for 24 years before becoming a professor of religion at Indiana Wesleyan University. He is the author of more than a dozen books of practical spirituality, including Holiness for Ordinary People, Common Ground and Ageless Faith. Keith Drury wrote the Tuesday Column for 17 years (1995-2012), and many articles can be found on his blog “Drury Writing.”
Keith Drury retired from full time teaching in 2012. Keith is married to Sharon and has two adult sons and several grandchildren. He is retired in Florida with Sharon and enjoys cycling.