Questions to ask a church when candidating
If a candidate turns the question to the committee, the candidate can measure the same thing.What does “faithfulness” mean for the church in response to persons who are LGBTQ?In the last few years, I’ve found myself sitting in a number of interviews as our church — First Baptist Church in Greensboro, N. — has sought and called several new ministers, including me.With seminarians counting down to graduation and other ministers in times of transition, résumés are being polished and cover letters written, building toward potential phone, Skype or in-person interviews.Are they stable and settled, or does the committee display the congregation’s willingness to grow and change with the gifts a new minister will bring? It might be standard protocol, but the invitation for spontaneous questions and unscripted answers can also be a telling moment in a search and call process.In addition to selecting a font for the résumé or perfecting lighting for the video chat, consider the questions on your list.Some churches have stated expectations about alcohol use; others have unwritten rules. Whether you drink socially or not, consider the characteristics of the community you hope to serve.
It’s worth considering how these values align with a candidate’s own convictions about the relationship between church and state. If out to the casual post-interview meal, consider measuring what the reaction would be if a minister were seen drinking socially. Some clergy who choose to drink can hold their heads up in a wine aisle, while others keep a secret box in the basement.Has your church discussed human sexuality and LGBTQ inclusion?With the Supreme Court decision on marriage last June and subsequent legislative conflicts, sexuality has become an interview topic even among previously reluctant churches.King addressed in that “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”? A congregation’s interpretation of its conduct throughout the African-American civil rights movement is, perhaps, the clearest evidence of its ethical DNA and capacity to commit to such work moving forward.Whatever the history — whether positive or wanting — the ability to understand and interpret that history is a strong indicator of how a church will engage critical issues of justice here and now.
Does the church defer challenges, or are they proud of their ability to do hard things? Do eyes cast downward at the mere mention, or does the congregation have a healthy sense of how to approach conflict?