A growing trend among mid-size to large churches is the role of executive pastor. We’ve found that many pastors who have a flair for creativity often lack organizational, administrative, and oversight skills. They like to spark ideas and ministries, motivate people to action, and then move on to something else – thus the emergence of the role of the executive pastor.
Next to the worship leader, an executive “ex” pastor is the second most important hire a pastor of a mid-size to large church ever makes. So getting this hire right the first time is important. And because for many pastors this is the first time they have had to hire an ex pastor, many aren’t sure how to interview the candidate. So, here are the basic questions I would ask if I were interviewing a potential candidate (these questions are asked only after a thorough examination of references, history, and some form of personality assessment like the Birkman Method).
“Describe for me your spiritual journey.” If I liked the response I would continue.
Next I would ask, “Tell me what you have accomplished in the past. Give me specifics including statistics.” It’s important to know what people have done in the past because past performance says a lot about how well a person will perform in the future.
If all of what I hear is positive, I then turn to questions about what I consider to be the four most important ministries I want this person to oversee, not do, but make sure they are in place and the staff person responsible for them is working the system. In any church this is where the water hits the wheel.
So now I ask the candidate to describe for me how he/she would put together the four systems that I deem crucial to the life of a congregation.
“Describe the kind of inviting system you would put in place to triple the number of first time visitors.”
“Describe the kind of connecting system you would put in place to retain 50-75% of those first time visitors.”
“Describe the kind of discipling system you would put in place to raise up disciples who go and make disciples.”
“Describe the kind of system you would put in place to weekly send out X number of disciples into the world to bless people, be blessed, and create visibility for the Kingdom and the church.”
Finally, based on the amount of money available for staffing I would ask the candidate, “How would you staff the church to make these four systems thrive?”
If I’m impressed by what I’ve heard, I would ask the candidate to go home and put together a detailed description, including specific goals, of how he/she would make the above happen.
Question: What are some other executive pastor interview questions you’ve asked or had to answer? Share your experiences in the Comments section below.
We have posted an opening for Executive Pastor at DeWitt Community Church in suburban Syracuse, NY and are now interviewing. Interested candidates can send resume and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org
Great article Bill! Thanks!
I’m thankful for this article. Here are some of your questions mixed with mine.
What’s the vision of this church? (If you’re interviewing a member. This helps you see if they understand the vision)
Do you feel called to ministry?
What is your definition of a minister?
How do you handle criticism? (What if someone criticizes the lead pastor? Including gossip)
One of the greatest challenges in a church is to keep volunteers in place and serving without burning out and at times becoming critical. What system would you put in place to encourage service, simplify scheduling and prevent burn out?
What ideas do you have to foster and initiate new Life Group Leaders and new volunteers? What system would sustain the constant need for these servers?
What are some of the things you have done in the past including some statistics or things that give me an idea of how you might administrate?
Describe the kind of inviting system you would put in place to triple the number of first time visitors. (We currently have 5-10 per Sunday)
Describe the kind of discipling system you would put in place to raise up disciples who go and make disciples.
What kind of system would you put in place for a pathway to membership (Christ in you, Christ in your relationships, Christ in your influence),moving people from visitor To Life Group memberTo serving and tithing in the church?
Can you please take these questions and formulate answers and a proposal for implementation? You can give one to two paragraph answers as I realize it would take time to truly flesh it out. We can discuss in greater detail when we get together.