7 Challenging Interview Questions For High-Potential Church Staff Candidates


If you’re in the pastoral search process, chances are you’re going to encounter some candidates that will have major potential for your ministry. When you come across this “cream of the crop,” it’s important to be prepared for their interview with questions that will highlight their strengths as well as weaknesses.  Interviewing well will help speed up the decision process for your leadership team and give you the opportunity to get to know the candidate on a deeper level in your brief interview.

We’ve prepared seven creative and challenging interview questions that will prepare you for a productive interview and help facilitate strong relationships early on in your interview process as you discern next steps to take with your candidates.

1. What parts of your current (or last) ministry job are the most energizing to you, and what parts are the most draining?

Much can be learned from how the candidate describes his or her own strengths and weaknesses. It’s common for someone to stray from the absolute truth in these scenarios because they are focused on making a good impression. By asking what energizes a candidate, you’ll gain more insight into what strengths they will bring to your team and the work environments where they will thrive. By asking what drains a candidate, you’ll gain insight into the tasks and responsibilities that the candidate prefers to stay away from. Look for the candidate to be open and honest about their shortcomings as well as strengths and how that might affect their potential position on your church staff. Humility is key for successful church staff leaders, so listen for a humble spirit in the candidates’ responses.

2. If we were to hire you today, what would your game plan be for your first 3 months in this role?

This question has the ability to quickly sort out the high-potential candidates from those who aren’t as well equipped for the position. The high-potential candidates will have likely already thought through strategy questions and have at least a broad game plan for what success in the role would like. Pay attention to their strategy and organization of thoughts. Be sure that this person is able to bring the gifts to the table that you are looking for as you are build your team.

3. What problems did you identify in your last position? Do you foresee any of those same problems in this position? Where do you see opportunities in this new role?

Depending on the type of person you’re interested in hiring, it may be important to determine their ability to adapt to a new role. Some church staff positions call for more agility than others, so listen for the candidates’ ability to adapt and shift to solve new problems. Problems will always arise in the workplace, and how a candidate responds to them speaks to their character. Look for them to provide examples of situations when they stepped out of their line of responsibility or comfort zone to fix a problem or provide insight. Having a versatile and focused staff member will always be beneficial for your ministry, regardless of the position.

4. What changes might you suggest if you were the decision-maker for this team or position?

This question gives the candidate the opportunity to showcase their own creativity and potential as they relate to your ministry. If he or she is a high-capacity candidate, they will probably already have some budding ideas that they will want to run by you. Give them the chance to appropriately share these with you. This will also give you the opportunity to see if your visions align for where you are leading your ministry.

5. Which of your ministry gifts have other leaders previously confirmed? What have they said about your strengths or your potential blind spots?

This is your chance to hear what the candidate thinks their peers’ impression is of the candidate’s work as well as gauge the candidate’s self awareness.  Ask this question of both your candidate and their references. Chances are, the candidates you choose to interview will have many references for you to contact, so this is your opportunity to call on them and learn a little more about the candidate. References from previous employers or mentors are a fantastic resource and should be utilized, especially if the candidate is new to your church community.

6. If you needed to gain expertise in a subject you didn’t know about, what plan of attack would you form?

Adaptability is a huge determinant of what makes a staff member hardworking and trustworthy. A successful candidate should be able to communicate their ability to problem-solve and work through a challenge.  One of our values as a company here at Vanderbloemen Search Group is solution-side living.  How has this candidate displayed solution-side living in their previous place of employment? Do they give up if they don’t know something or do they relentlessly search for the answer until they solve the problem? These qualities speak to their character and potential of the candidate for your ministry.

7. Do you predict any changes in churches or ministry in the next 2 – 4 years? How do you plan to adapt your ministry to fit those changes? Do you think there are any changes that need to happen?

As we’ve discussed above, the church world is constantly changing, so it’s important that church leaders continuously reevaluate the effectiveness of their ministry. Listen for the candidate’s ability to bring new ideas and innovation to the position. Are they able to strategically think through processes and systems to help build your ministry?

Effective interviewing is vital to your search and hiring process. These are just a few questions to ask as a part of your interview process to ensure that you are in search of the right fit for your church staff.

What questions would you add to this list that you ask during interviews?

If you liked this article, then you’ll also enjoy 4 Simple Steps To An Effective Face-to-Face Interview.

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