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25 unbelievable things search committees said to pastoral candidates

job interview search committee
Unsplash/Dylan Gillis

It began as a conversation at Church Answers where we have 2,000 church leaders interacting almost 24 hours a day. They can ask questions about their churches, or they can just interact with one another about the hopes and travails of ministry.

I read as many of the comments as possible. This one caused me to pause. A pastor was interviewing with a search committee when one of the committee members asked him if he would be on 24/7 call 365 days a week. Taken aback, the pastor then asked the search committee member how many hours a week he was expected to work.

The response? Up to 120 hours a week!


As other pastors and staff members interacted with this pastor, I decided to take the question to social media. I wanted to ask the question specifically to lead pastors, but I included church staff as well. Here was my question: “Pastors and church staff: What is a question you’ve been asked by a search committee (or its equivalent) that told you the church is not a good fit for you?”

We got dozens of expected responses like, “Does your wife play piano?” But we got many more that shocked us. By this point, you would think that I couldn’t be shocked how some churches treat a pastor or staff member.

Here are 25 of the shocking questions or comments in no particular order: 

1. Our last pastor preached for 18 minutes. Can you keep it under 20 minutes?

2. The salary is low, but we will pay you a commission for each new tithing family that joins the church.

3. What is your political party affiliation?

4. What is the least amount we can pay you to come?

5. We do monthly cleaning inspections of the parsonage. You will need to make sure your wife keeps it clean.

6. Do you mind if we have a Christmas tree in the pulpit?

7. Your wife can’t take a job outside the home because she will be too busy at the church.

8. Are you a Calvinist? (several times)

9. Will you preach out of the King James Version? (several times)

10. What do you think about coloreds in the church? (Sadly, several racist questions were asked, including one church that used extremely inappropriate racial language.)

11. Will you play at least 2 hymns a week? The old hymns?

12. Would you be okay if we parked another single wide by the existing one as a parsonage for your whole family?

13. Do you own a weapon?

14. We want you to preach for a month and see how it works out. (The candidate lived out of state.)

15. What is your position on interracial marriages?

16. If you came here, we would want you to fire the youth minister. Would you be willing to do that?

117. Do you let the singers hold the microphones themselves?

18. Have you ever held a rattlesnake?

19. Would you be willing to shave your facial hair?

20. You have to mow the parsonage lawn at the same time they mow the churchyard.

21. The pastor’s office hours are 9 to 5 Monday through Friday.

22. When discovering the pastoral candidate had a physical disability, the search committee person said, “Oh, we don’t want a pastor that’s disabled. You have to stand while you are preaching.”

23. What are your views on mixed bathing?

24. Boxers or briefs?

25. How’s your sex life?

Unbelievable. So unbelievable. Feel free to add your own.

Originally published at Church Answers.

Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. A conference speaker and author or co-author of more than ten books, including Spiritual Warfare: Biblical Truth for Victory, Discipled Warriors, Putting on the Armor, Mentor, and Spiritual Warfare in the Storyline of Scripture, Dr. Lawless has a strong interest in discipleship and mentoring. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.

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