10 Things a Potential New Pastor Would Want to Know about a Church

When I started my first pastorate 40+ years ago, I had no idea what kinds of information I wanted from the church – so I didn’t request much. I realize it’s difficult to secure all the information I list below, but here are some things I’d want to know if I were considering a new pastorate:

  1. Who are the real leaders in the church? And, I’m not assuming they necessarily have titles or leadership positions. I want to know who the influencers are. 
  2. What do you see my primary responsibility is as the pastor? If we differ on that role, we will likely have conflict. 
  3. If I challenged your kids and grandkids to the nations in Jesus’ name, would you be supportive? I want to know how committed you are to the global mission. 
  4. How would you respond if people who look different than you and/or whose mother language is different than yours begin to attend the church? Here, I’m asking about underlying, though often unspoken, prejudice. 
  5. What do you expect of my spouse? Pam and I come as a team, but I want her to serve in her giftedness and her passions—not simply in positions the church expects her to hold. 
  6. What underlying issues are there in the church that even the pastor search team might not have recognized? Sometimes even the leaders don’t know about undercurrents of conflict.
  7. When you differ with me, what will be your approach to addressing the issue? And, I don’t want to know the proper answer; I want to know how your church has historically handled these kinds of situations. 
  8. How many pastors have left the church under negative circumstances (either personal or congregational) in the past 20 years? If the church has a history of short-term, conflict-filled pastorates, the problem is probably more with the congregation than with the pastors. 
  9. How much do you pray regularly for the pastoral staff? Again, I want to hear the actual situation more than an aspirational one. I want to know the church has made and keeps a commitment to intercede for leaders. 
  10. How much pushback would I get if I call all members to walk faithfully with God, serve in some capacity through the church, and accept church discipline if their faulty choices necessitate it? It’s the latter statement on church discipline that probably evokes the strongest responses, but I’d want to know where the church stands on these issues. 

I’m sure this list is not exhaustive. What would you add?  


  • Pete Pharis says:

    What does a typical deacon’s meeting look like?

    What are the memorial items in the church? (Things that can’t, or wont, be moved including an old unused furniture items or even an abandoned former sanctuary.)

    Do they have an extreme fondness for a particular translation of the Bible or particular style of music?

    Does this church encourage members to regularly share personal testimonies of their spiritual walk?

    Do members lead others to Christ and are they encouraged to humbly share those experiences?

    How are new members welcomed, celebrated, and treated over the long term? (transfer growth and new Christians.)

    What is their concept of discipleship? Age distribution and participation of discipleship.

    What is the level of satisfaction/disappointment toward abandoned or unfinished projects?

    How did they respond to Covid-19 (or any other crisis?)

    Who are the bullies and black sheep? (Just kidding . . . sorta,)

  • Pete Pharis says:

    I just thought of a couple more. Who would the members call for minor crises, or if something should happen in the middle of the night? Do they know who their deacon is?

    OK, just one more. Do the members know when the former pastor’s day off was? What day or time did he reserve for sermon preparation?

  • Robin G Jordan says:

    An excellent list of questions. Question #1 is right at the top where it belongs—who are the real leaders, not the official leaders but the folks who call the shots behind the scenes, the folks whose support you need to get anything done, the folks whose lack of support or active opposition will keep you from accomplishing anything, the folks who will sabotage what you are attempting to do just to show you who is in charge. One of the clues to who they are is that they are always badmouthing previous pastors and other people in a leadership role. Nothing these people did in their estimation was right. The only people who do things right are themselves. They may tend to be critical of people in general. Getting them onboard for any undertaking may be challenging. They are skeptical of every idea that they themselves did not come up with.

    I would want to know what are the hot button issues in the church—the things that elicit the craziest, out-of-the-box reactions from church members? What are the sacred cows? What are the no-go areas—those would get me immediately in hot water? Small churches are minefields.

  • Joe Pastor says:

    Why did your last pastor leave? Is it OK for me to call him and ask about the church?

    What areas of conflict or disunity have happened in the last five years?

    If I were to meet and even exceed your expectations as your next pastor, what would that look like?

  • Alexis Kjellstrom says:

    What is your discipleship, mentoring program?
    What ministries do you have and, who leads them and how long has each been facilitated by the same person?

    This will tell you if they have a mentoring mindset or not. If it is the same names coming up all the time and the positions do not rotate then you likely have an “I” church with egos and power plays not a God church with mentoring and discipleship.
    I appreciate that in small churches there are less people but mentoring and rotating positions can still happen. It is unhealthy for one person to always be in charge.

    • Alexis Kjellstrom says:

      Additionally, How many of the key roles are filled by the pastor’s family or an elder/deacon’s family. This shows if God or man is in charge of the congregation. Too much family leads to fear to communicate concerns or observations by the congregation as it literally shuts the doors to communication. No room for Matthew 18:15-17.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.