29 Questions to Ask the Pulpit Committee
12a. What are the statistics on church membership for the last five years?
With these you can get clues to past conflicts or splits, or if the general momentum is up or down. If membership is declining, the key question is:
12b. Why do you think there has been a membership decline?
Churches that are declining or in a plateau may still be healthy. Perhaps the general population in that area is receding.
13. Do you have a plan for growth?
How open are they to a new pastor's plan? Are you willing to pay the price of change that's going to be necessary for this church to grow?
14. What is the single biggest obstacle to growth in this church?
John Beukema observes: "If they all agree on one single biggest obstacle, then you probably know the thing you need to tackle. If they list a bunch of obstacles, all of which may be true, then your work will be harder." Either you need align their perceptions, or the situation is complicated.
15. What role do you feel laypersons should play in the development of a strong, growing congregation?
Everyone will affirm the role of laity, but assumptions about hospital visitation, decision making, budgeting, and vision will vary.
16. When did your last new members join?
What would they say was the factor that attracted them to your church? If the last new members joined three years ago, there could be some stale ministries at work.
17. Is there any conflict in the church now?
How did the church resolve conflict in the past? Conflict shouldn't surprise anyone, but major conflict, especially in the last year or two will have a great bearing on the immediate ministry.
18. What issues have regularly caused friction in this church?
Consider whether these are the real issues or symptoms of something else.
19. What is it that sparked your interest in me as a candidate?
Why do you think I will help this church? The answers should shed light on their expectations.
20. What were the strengths and weaknesses of your previous pastor?
if he or she was a short-term pastor, ask about his or her predecessor. Do they speak of the pastor critically or appreciatively?
Churches often react to the weaknesses of their previous pastor by looking for an opposite, but their expectations have probably been shaped significantly by the previous pastor.
21. What has been the tenure of previous pastors/staff members?
If the church has a pattern of short pastorates, the trend will likely continue. Chris Zorn, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Sebastian (Florida) says, "It's like a divorce. Statistics show a 60 percent divorce rate among remarriages. People get used to breaking off relationships. It becomes easier to do."
If the pastor retired, will he remain a member of the church? "It's good to know that that pastor will not continue to run the church without the title," says Leroy Armstrong. "You'll put forth proposals and the people won't look to you; they'll look to the previous pastor."
If the pastor was involved in a scandal, then, says Armstrong, "I better be prepared to walk a very tight integrity rope."