How To Interview For Your Next Pastor

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Your search team has prayed, reviewed, and vetted numerous candidates, and it’s now time to begin the crucial interview process.

Here at Vanderbloemen, we walk alongside our clients throughout the process to help see their search to a successful closing. With hundreds of searches under our belt, we know that every church is unique, so there is no one right way to do final interviews. That being said, here are some best interview practices of churches that we’ve seen through the years as they seek who God is calling as their next pastor.

Click here to download our free Pastor Search Prayer Calendar for your search committee

1. Wear your recruiting hat 

Balancing the tension of recruiting versus interviewing is the key to successful hiring.Tweet: Balancing the tension of recruiting versus interviewing is the key to successful hiring. via @VanderbloemenSG

It’s important to remember that although you may be sitting in the interviewer’s seat, your candidates will be interviewing you as well. High impact candidates will be asking challenging questions and expecting clear, concise answers in response.

Just because a candidate is interviewing with you doesn’t mean they have made up their mind and would accept an offer if given. Being prepared and being honest in the interview is one of the best ways to recruit talent.

2. Lean into relational connections

We know that culture and chemistry fit is key in hiring for long-term tenure. To best assess chemistry and culture, I recommend a more relational approach to interviews. Consider soft seating versus a board room set up for your interview process. We’ve worked with churches that will even host a dinner round-table discussion with the search team to help the candidate get to know them better.

When bringing in a candidate, we are often asked how much information should be shared about the potential new pastor with the staff. Unless the staff is part of the direct interview process, it is not necessary to give them the candidate's resume and formal information. I recommend a more relaxed approach as a “get to know you.” Have the candidate talk about their experience and leave enough time for Q&A with the staff.

3. Over-communicate

Lack of communication is one of the quickest ways to lose momentum in your search process.Tweet: Lack of communication is one of the quickest ways to lose momentum in your search process. via @VanderbloemenSG

When there is an absence of information, people will always fill in the gaps with their own narrative. For example, if the search team is out of town for two weeks before they can meet again, a final candidate might think the church has lost interest in them or that they have decided to hire someone else. A simple email or phone call by the search committee chair or lead staff member to communicate the timeline can help to avoid this misunderstanding and set everyone up for continued success.

4. Begin with the end in mind

I can’t say this enough to my clients. It’s important to know what the goal is and how you plan to get there. Do you have a plan for your interview process and know what the next steps entail? If not, make sure to prepare this ahead of time so that you don’t lose valuable momentum in your interview process.

The churches and organizations who see success in their search process are active and engaged not only in the process but with the candidates. They know where they are headed and make sure to keep up their momentum as they continue toward their goal.

5. Engage the spouse

Last but certainly not least, don’t forget to include the spouse, significant other, and/or children (if any) in the interview process. During your interview process, it can be easy to focus all your attention solely on the person seeking the position. Ministry, however, is a family calling and the support of the spouse is crucial to their long-term success and happiness in the role. Consider having a separate time for the spouse to talk to other staff members about the church and the community.

Plan ahead and provide a gift basket of local favorites in their hotel room when they arrive together for the visit. If the candidate’s spouse is not coming along for in-person interviews, send flowers or a gift of thanks for supporting the process. Don’t forget to be available and provide a host if necessary. Including the family in the interview process will pay dividends toward your future success.

What other best practices can you share for a successful interview process?