Tag: prayer

10 Questions to Ask in your Church Interview

Setting Clear Expectations

If I could pull back the curtain between an associational leader and a pastor, there are many difficult conversations about the hardships of pastoral ministry. Some of you may have had these conversations yourselves. Many issues arise due to a lack of communication, disunity between church members, and others simply because of prideful behavior on all sides. But pastors who are struggling in their churches normally have one thing in common: there were unclear expectations of their ministry when they started. They just didn’t ask enough questions.

A friend of mine went into an interview to be a Worship Pastor at a local church. When he sat down, the search committee asked him some basic questions about his family. Then, one of the men said, “We just have one question for you. Are you a Calvinist?” The young man fumbled his way through a response and told them that his focus was simply engaging the church in worship. They hired him with no other questions. His tenure of ministry was one of tumult – they never told him their expectations, and it caused major issues.

Some search committees need training in asking the right questions. But most interviews conclude with, “Do you have any questions for us?” A mature pastor who is trying to seek out God’s will should definitely have some questions to ask to that search committee.

During the interview process of a church, everything is exciting. The idea of a fresh start and a new opportunity can sometimes cloud our clarity in seeking God’s will. During an interview, things are not always what they seem. As a result, some leaders have a shorter tenure at a church than they originally anticipated. 

One of the ways that pastors and leaders can prevent making the wrong decision is by asking the right questions during a church interview. On a recent podcast episode of the Replant Bootcamp, Jimbo and Bob discussed 10 great questions to ask to the search committee. A church does not only need to find out if the pastor is a good fit for their church; a pastor needs to find out if a church is a good fit for their ministry style. These 10 questions will be helpful as you get ready to sit down in an interview with the church leadership.

1.What are your expectations for me and for my family?

Unexpressed expectations always lead to disappointment and conflict. If you are a few months into the job and are being compared to the former pastor, whether negative or positive, it is unfair to your ministry. Asking this question during the interview process will encourage the search committee to make sure they don’t compare you to a previous leader. You have your own gifts and personality that mesh with ministry. Asking this question can tell you a lot about a church, specifically if they have expectations that go beyond the scope of regular ministry work. Church committees should have a clear job description that goes over the daily expectations of their pastor. Also take time to discuss  any “spoken,” but not “written” expectations.

2. What do you think are the marks of a healthy church?

A little bit of self-reflection goes a long way. This question is important to gauge  how the church understands itself. It also communicates to the leadership team that you want to discover the positive and negative aspects of their church. While I wouldn’t expect to hear someone go over Mark Dever’s 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, it would still help to hear them explain from their perspective if their church is healthy or not. Some pastors want to focus mainly on helping churches pursue health in the form of revitalization, and if you’re a seasoned pastor who has experience, you will have an idea of where to start with them. A good follow-up to this question is “How does this church measure up to those goals?”

3. Why did the previous pastor leave?

What were the events that led up to your interview? While this may be an uncomfortable question to ask, their answers can tell you a lot about their current situation. Did the previous pastor leave out of a forced termination, or a different ministry opportunity? Did they retire from the ministry? 

4. What is the community around the church like? 

Like the church health question, this helps you understand how they see the surrounding community. If the church is totally different from the surrounding community, then there are some additional questions to ask: Is the church actively engaging the community? Have they been disconnected from the community? Do they think loving the community is insignificant? I would also encourage you to go to the Associational leader, or other members in the community and ask them, “What is the reputation of this church in the community?” 

5. What are some of the greatest joys or frustrations that this church has gone through? 

The history of the church is a significant factor of helping understand a church. Asking this question gives the leadership a chance to be honest with themselves. You need to know what situation you are walking into. Has the church had major splits in their history? Are they currently in turmoil? What joy and celebrations have they seen in the past? This question gives you the chance to begin your ministry by either building off a previous legacy, or changing the tides of the past. 

6. How does the congregation view the role of the pastor’s wife? 

This question is important to ask because it carries the language of expectation. Some churches have had very active pastor’s wives, who led women’s ministry opportunities or provided childcare every Sunday morning. However, if you have a wife who feels more inclined to serve in a worship ministry or different area, they could be in for a rude awakening when dealing with some church members. Wives of pastors should feel the freedom, as any other church member, to serve in whatever way they are gifted and called. A happy spouse serving freely in a church can make all the difference in the world in your ministry. 

7. If I am being successful, what am I doing? How do you view success in your church?

Success, while related to expectations, helps a church think about their goals in a positive light. Every church will want their pastor to thrive and lead their church well, so leadership should be able to provide a good answer to this. What you will find is that in asking this question, they may bring up specific goals that were lacking or excelling in their previous leadership.

8. How much are you going to pay me? If there are going to be increases, how will those be handled?

While you may be afraid to ask this question, it is important to ask, nonetheless. I’ve heard people say, “If God called me here, I shouldn’t worry about the money.” But if you have a family, medical expenses, bills, vehicle payments, and student loan debt, you should seriously consider this question: would God call you into a situation where you couldn’t provide for your family? In seeking God’s will for your life, it’s important that we factor in our families and our life situation. As a pastor, your first priority is to your family, and then your church. 

9. If you have concerns with me, how will you let me know? 

Last week, the podcast dealt with forced termination. This sometimes takes place in the form of anonymous letters, a late night phone call or visit from church members, or cold-shouldering that keeps you questioning what happened. Asking this question to church leadership helps keep them accountable for how they will handle disagreement or conflict in the church when it comes to your leadership. This should be clearly written in the church’s constitution and by-laws.

10. If you have concerns with me, how will you let me know?

Plan on reaching out to former pastors and interviewing them. Ask them  what their experience was like. As you do so, remember that there are two sides to every story, and recognize that not every person placed in a leadership position is the best fit for a local church. This can help with making sure there are no decision-ending topics that come up.

God is sovereign and he is in control of all things. He knew you’d be sitting in that interview chair. Ask the right questions and pray, seeking God’s peace that passes all understanding in your decision. Wait for God’s timing, and don’t rush the process. 

Stages in a Replant: Plowing


Potential Change on the Horizon

There is something to be said for churches who have chosen the Replant option. For churches who are ready to change, it requires boldness and energy mixed with a soft and willing heart. 

Replanting has a high risk, but a high reward. It requires patience, stability, regularity, prolonged unity, and a leadership team that is “all in.” While there exists the possibility of conflict, frustration, and spiritual warfare, the end result of a replant can be a new, vibrant church that is focused on discipleship, mission, and community. 

There are surface changes we may do in Replant, but there are some underlying, primary things that give a structure to Replanting. In his work with NAMB, Bob has done a great job in developing the four stages of a Replant. The focus on this blog is the first stage: Plowing.

Who Will Give the Growth?


In 1 Corinthians 3:5-9, Paul gives an agricultural illustration of the result of a fruitful ministry: 

“What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to this labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”

When it comes to the work of ministry, we may do all we can to implement strategies, ideas, and plant seeds. We may have others that come along with us and help water those seeds. But at the end of the day, God is the one who causes the growth. If this is threatening rather than reassuring, you may need to pause for a moment and reflect. See if there is any pride in you. The growth of a church does not depend on your clever tactics. It depends on God. This should be a comforting thought, as we realize that God alone can bring new life.

Fellow Workers, Plowing in God’s Field

Paul still recognizes that even though this is God’s field, we are his fellow workers. We still have a part to play! But our role is primarily in preparing and creating space for God to work. In the first stage of Replanting, we find ourselves Plowing. In order for new Gospel seeds to take root—the hard ground must be plowed, broken up and turned over.

Plowing is the work of God in preparing the ground through prayer and preaching. When we pray, we are expressing our dependence on God. When God’s people pray, God moves! When we preach the Gospel with the power and conviction of the Holy Spirit, God works in the hearts of His people. During this first stage, we are mainly focusing our church spiritually by prayer and  faithful preaching of the word.

There are also some practical ways that we can “prepare the ground” and create space for God to move. Outside of regular prayer and preaching, what does the work of “plowing” look like in a Church Replant?

  • The Cessation of the “Well Worn”: Plowing breaks up what was in order to do what’s next. Sometimes this takes place by rethinking a favorite program, a music style, a favorite fellowship, or a message on the sign outside. In seeking to find what’s next—the congregation, Pastor and leaders must pray and plan together, relying on God to lead the way.
  • Disruptive Force: as a plow breaks into the ground it cuts, separates, lifts and turns over. Hard ground is transformed more and more into soft earth as the steel edge of the plow repetitively breaks into the ground. God’s word regularly and rightly proclaimed while empowered by the Holy Spirit, is the disruptive force that breaks into the hearts of people. The Word of God proclaimed in the power of the Spirit will serve to disrupt and dislodge the hard ground covering fertile soil.
  • Persistent Plodding: The hard places won’t be softened with one message, one prayer, or one strategic action list. Plowing is the regular, constant work of prayer and preaching. It takes faithfulness and consistency, because it takes time for hearts to be softened.
  • A Christ Centered Commitment: Jesus admonished his followers by saying that anyone who put their hand to the plow and then quit—is not worthy of his kingdom. Revitalization and Replanting Pastors know that turnarounds are never short—many experts believe it takes between 5-7 years for a once in decline or nearly dead church to come back to life.

John and the 70

The work of plowing takes selfless individuals who are passionate about the gospel. When I think of a Biblical Example of “Plowing,” I can’t help but think of John the Baptist. When John was born of Elizabeth and Zechariah, Zechariah prophesied, saying, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sin…” (Luke 1:76-77).

John the Baptist came preaching repentance and preparing the way of the Lord, by “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin,” (Luke 3:3). He was doing the work of plowing. Through years of silence and awaiting the promised Messiah, the ground had become hard and difficult. So much so, that many were unwilling to believe that Christ was the Messiah. But many hearts were prepared and ready to follow Jesus due to John’s work in ministry.

Lastly, the work of plowing takes a team. In Luke 10:1-3, Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem. He appoints 70 of his followers (or 72 depending on translation) to go into every town and village where he is about to go. Their message was to proclaim that “the kingdom of God has come near,” (v. 9, 11). The 70 appointed followers were sent out by Christ to plow the ground, to prepare the way of the Lord. 

Before they were sent out to all the towns and villages, he made a statement that gives life to our agricultural illustration: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”

I truly believe that the work of Replanting involves a right understanding of our mission field. Do we believe that the harvest is plentiful around us? What God wants us to do in this work is to create opportunities for Him to work on people’s hearts. In doing so, we will be preparing the way of the Lord.

For more information on the work of plowing, see Bob Bickford’s article on NAMB’s website or listen to Ep. 163 of the Replant Bootcamp Podcast. While resources on prayer and preaching are abundant, here are a few of my personal favorites: Faithful Preaching, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, Preaching by the Book, Preaching for God’s Glory, Power Through Prayer, Prayer, and Prayer

If you think your church is in danger of closing, take this church health assessment. This self-assessment is meant to help assist you in determining the current state of your local church. Another way to get started is by taking an introductory course that will help anyone understand what church replanting is and how it provides hope for dying churches.


Replant Bootcamp
Replant Bootcamp

Welcome back Bootcampers! In this EP we welcome Replanter Evan Skelton back to the bootcamp to talk about praying together as a congregation.  How can prayer go from something you do (and maybe do awkwardly) to becoming a vital part of the life of your church?  Listen in as Bob and Evan discuss the following:

  • Start intentionally developing a culture of prayer
  • Preach an annual sermon series on prayer
  • Recommend and provide resources to your congregation
  • Incorporate prayer into the worship gathering
  • Celebrate the victories gained in prayer (not just answers to prayer)

Thanks Evan! We’d love to hear from you and how you’re developing a culture of prayer in your congregation.

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Replant Bootcamp
Replant Bootcamp

The guys picked up where they left off discussing the Netflixification of the Church and how the on demand nature of streaming has impacted the way people are engaging with the Church.

  • Streaming Church Content due to convenience – probably not a good motive
  • Streaming due to life circumstances and need – a periodic necessity and gift but not long-term solution

The pandemic has given us a gift-in that we can clarify with our congregation what does it mean to be with the church.

We can and should evaluate everything we are doing and help our folks assess their engagement with it.

Our goal, as Pastors is to help our congregation understand the value of embodied presence (gathered worship)

  • Preach on the value of embodied presence
  • Connect with your congregation
  • Elevate connection through groups
  • Lead others to engage in shepherding along with you – “the one another’s”
  • Restructure the embodied presence by changing your liturgy

 Fun Links

Preachers and Sneakers

Friday Night Lights, Psych and Heroes


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Show notes powered by Descript are an approximation of the verbal content, consult podcast audio for accuracy

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Replant Bootcamp
Replant Bootcamp

This week the guys celebrate the arrival of Fall, Bob celebrates that his beloved and dismal Razorbacks are sitting atop the SEC leader board (having played no games.) Jimbo tells about his very eventful “view of a call” Sunday and the barf-O-rama that preceded it on Saturday night. Along the way they talk about leadership, prayer and creating a sense of urgency.

The Leadership Two-Step

  1. Stop and Pray
  2. Create a Sense of Urgency

There’s never been a significant move of God apart from significant prayer. Listen or consult the show transcript below for specific info on how to incorporate prayer into your Replant.

Here are some helpful resources to consult in your effort to lead change.

Leading Change and Our Iceberg is Melting by John Kotter

Leading Congregational Change by Jim Herrington

Who Moved My Pulpit, by Thom Rainer

Leading Major Change by Jeff Iorge

Flickering Lamps, by Henry and Richard Blackaby

40 Days of Prayer Guide, Kentucky Baptist Convention

Show Notes: want to read along while the show plays? Check out this episode’s show notes below delivered by: Descript  

TRANSCRIPTS are an approximate account of the audio recording and may not be 100% complete. Audio should be consulted for accuracy

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