In a recent post at his blog, Thom shares with pastoral candidates some key questions they should ask—questions that will help them get beneath the surface to better understand the real issues in that church. He writes:

“While it’s common for candidates for a pastorate to ask questions, the nature of the questions often does not lend itself to a complete answer. For example, if you ask some of the church members if they are ready and willing to reach their community with the gospel, they likely will respond with a resounding ‘yes.’ After you become their pastor, you realize they meant they are willing for you to do the work, and they aren’t really comfortable reaching beyond their own groups. They didn’t lie. They just didn’t tell you the whole story.

“So I have devised seven questions that are more likely to get to the heart of the matter. I encourage you to ask these questions and listen carefully to their responses. It could save you a lot of heartache in the future.

1. If a big decision needs to be made in the church, to whom do the members look for the blessing or approval? This question is a more subtle approach than asking who the power group is. They may respond with one name, or they may point to a group of people. You may hear stories how the power brokers operate. If you decide to accept the call to the church, you have good insights on how to lead and move forward. Or there could be sufficient horror stories to keep you away.

2. What is your dream for how the church might look 10 years from now? Once you hear the responses to this question, you likely will have a good idea of what the change tolerance is in the church. Any organization should look significantly different in a decade. If their decadal view involves only cosmetic changes, you may have a leadership challenge.

3. What was the topic of your last contentious business meeting? You will learn a lot by hearing when that meeting took place. If it was just a few weeks ago, the church may be a fighting lot. If it was several years ago, it is likely the church is a relatively civil group. You also will be able to hear the issue and find out if that issue is still a point of contention today.

4. What is something I might say from the pulpit that would cause a number of members to cringe? This question gets to the heart of hot-button issues. Some of those issues may be theological. Some of them may be something foolish one or more former pastors said from the pulpit. At the very least, you have been forewarned before you accept the call to the church.” (Click here to read the full article, including the other three questions.)

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