[ 3 minutes to read ]How to take your first church [A]fter preaching a while, you will be called to your first church. You will not be ready. Depending on the quality of mentoring, some of you are more not ready than others. Before being called, the church, or someone from the church, will ask you questions and those questions can be anything. It’s hard for me to help prepare you for that other than to say be ready for anything. If the church went through a bad experience with their previous pastor, you will probably be asked a number of odd questions that are mostly designed to make sure you are not like him. If the church’s previous pastor was unhealthily venerated, the church will ask you many questions mostly designed to ensure you are just like him.
Be ready for anything is the best I can do from this side of the process. You cannot control what a church says or does in communicating with a prospective pastor. But, you can control what you do in the process and you should remember you are interviewing the church just as much as they are interviewing you.
The Questions You Should Consider Asking
I am not promising the definitive list. I’m sure others with more wisdom and experience can add to this list. My goal is only to list several things you should consider about a church before you accept the call. And we’re off.
- Church Documents
You will want to ask for a copy of their church documents, i.e., articles of faith, constitution and bylaws, covenant, etc. You need to learn about their doctrine and practice. If the church doesn’t have these documents, or if they’re vague or very brief, you will need to ask questions to find out the sort of things that would be in such documents, if they had them.
- Church Officers and Staff
You need to know every position the church has and who holds those positions. You need to know if those are paid positions and what the responsibilities of those persons are. In this area, you need to know things like the handling of finances, cleaning and property maintenance, etc.
- Church Membership
You need to know how many members the church has. You need to know how faithful those members are to the services and such. You need to know if the church maintains members who are not in the area. You need to know the church’s position on attendance and how problems in this area are addressed. You need to know if the church has any special needs members, such as elderly, shut-in, nursing home, etc.
- Church Calendar
You need to know what a typical year in the life of the church looks like. What events does the church have? What special services?
- Church Missions
You need to know what missionaries/ministries the church supports financially. You need to know what outreach the church does locally.
- Church Expectation
You need to know what the church expects of a pastor. Their expectations may be biblical or not, but you need to know what those are. This would include anything and everything they expect a pastor will do.
- Church Pay
You need to know the salary they’re offering, how it will be paid, etc. If they have a parsonage, you will also need to know their expectations regarding it.
- Church Problems
You need to know if there are any current problems within the church membership or between them and other churches. You need to know what you’re stepping into as much as possible.
- Previous Pastor
You need to know about the previous pastor and what happened with him. I am not suggesting nosiness, but you need to find out relevant things to pastoring this church.
No Perfect Churches
Again, that list is not the definitive list, but it is a list that touches on many areas and discussing these things will probably bring out what you most need to know. It’s better to eliminate surprises as much as possible. Some things that come up will need an immediate conversation, while others you just need to be aware of. Answers to these questions will affect the way you do things. I am not suggesting that any bump in the road here means you have to run away. Remember that things are not always what they seem and there are no perfect churches, or perfect pastors.