Seven Major Questions When Considering a New Leadership Position

Numerous articles have been written about questions a pastor should ask before going to a new church. After listening to hundreds of pastors, I have developed my own list of major issues that a pastor should consider. Some of the pastors I interviewed shared with me why they viewed their ministry as a joyous match. Other pastors told me the reasons their current or former pastorates had been unmitigated disasters.

Throughout this process I saw seven major patterns emerge. I translate them here as seven major questions. While these questions are typically suited for a pastor who is considering a church, they also could be helpful to the pastor evaluating his current ministry. Church members who are in the process of looking for a pastor might find them helpful as well.

  1. Am I doctrinally compatible with the church? Make certain you are clear that you know fully all the details of the church’s doctrine, even if you are in the same denomination. And be clear and truthful with the theological beliefs you will bring to the church.
  2. Am I the right type of leader for this congregation? Almost all church members will say they desire to reach others. But not all are willing to accept the necessary changes that must take place to do so. The ideal leader stays out front sufficiently so others will follow; but he is not so far out front that his followers mistake him for the enemy and shoot him in the rear.
  3. Will I have a passion for the community? The pastor must not only love the church; he must also love the community where the church is located. Are you certain you can love the community sacrificially and wholeheartedly?
  4. What are the true expectations of me? Most churches have a generic job description for the pastor. It would fit almost any church. Instead of depending on a job description, ask members what their favorite pastor did to make him their favorite. You will then get a good idea of what they really want you to do.
  5. What are the expectations of church members? Is the church a high expectation church or a low expectation church? Will I really be able to equip the saints to do the work of ministry, or will I be expected to do the bulk of the ministry myself?
  6. What are the issues of conflict the church has experienced in recent years? How are those issues affecting the church today? Are there some unresolved and lingering issues? What are the expectations of me in dealing with unresolved conflicts?
  7. What are the members’ greatest memories in this church? As members begin to describe the perceived best days of the church, you will begin to get a good idea of what’s really important to them. You will then have a more realistic view of your beginning point in the church.

What do you think of these seven questions to help you get to know a church better? What would you add as a major question to ask?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 
Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.
 
— Jonathan Schultheis
 

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