To get to the in-person stage of the interview process, the candidate has successfully gone through one or two phone interviews. Below are some ideas for how the in-person interviews should proceed. Included are some sample questions to ask the candidate, as well as some questions that the interviewer/search team should be prepared to answer.

Interview #1

This interview should involve several types of people, perhaps in two or three waves. The supervisor and department leadership should be involved in the first interview, as well as the Campus Manager, and perhaps a peer. There might be a walk through of the department, showing the work area. The interview length should be long enough to both get to know the person and to see them respond in a variety of formats (75-90 minutes). The interview should be primarily tactical—working through the job description, an exhaustive review of the person’s qualifications (computer literacy, telephone ability, interaction with others, etc.)

Interview #2

This is a shorter interview (30-45 minutes) and focuses on personal interaction. The following are the types of questions that I like to use, dependent upon the position:

  • When we do a background check on you, will there be any surprises for us?
  • What would you expect your first 90 days to look like?  What would be “success” after 90 days?
  • Are you Mac or PC?
  • It is 4:30 pm and it has been a long day. Two people walk up to your desk, just as you are answering the phone. The caller is quite angry with your department. What are you going to do?
  • Are you a focused worker needing quiet or do you like phone calls and people walking up?
  • Tell us some of the things that you do well. What are some things that take more time, are harder for you to do?
  • What do you expect your references to say about you? Will there be any surprises when we call them or your former/current employer?
  • Regarding Microsoft Office. Are you comfortable with inserting a graphic into PowerPoint? Do you know Excel? Can you take the sum from one sheet and put it into another sheet? Have you used pivot tables? Can you do a mail merge in Word?
  • As you understand them, what are the hours for this job?
  • What has been communicated to you about the pay range for this job?
  • Where would you like to be in “five years.”
  • What will be the challenges and benefits of moving from secular employment to the church environment?
  • What do you understand our position on overtime to be?
  • How would you describe your best skills and abilities?

Categories of Questions

The following questions are ones that a good search team will be able to answer. You can turn many of these around to discern a candidate’s thoughts about life and ministry.

Staff Culture

  • What is the work culture, style of communication, strength of relationships, emphasis on policy, office hours, casual or formal feeling, and of course, “Mac or PC?”
  • What kinds of meetings are there for pastors, directors and support staff? Tactical, strategic and spiritual? What are the future needs?
  • Describe the leadership and its style; use of ministry teams, committees and staff leadership of ministries. How is the fruit of the Spirit seen in the ministries?
  • What is staff longevity, turnover, challenges and issues? Does the staff function in teams, solo or silo? What is the level of trust, problems, average age, sense of excitement, hospitality and prayer?
  • Describe the staff education agenda, such as books, use of instruments like the Myers-Briggs, fun time together and continuing education.


  • What is the financial picture of the church? Describe the budget and budget process. How are financial reviews done, such as an audit? What is the indebtedness and are there any for-profit activities, such as a school?
  • Describe the human resource issues. What is the hiring style, recent terminations, lawsuits and HR handbook. Does the church have an opportunity profile for hiring staff?
  • What is the compensation structure? What is the range for the position, benefits, health insurance, life, dental, retirement & vesting, vacation, holidays and sick time?
  • What are the transition expenses covered, such as moving, home selling, flights, realtor fees and transitional housing? What is the cost of living difference at the new city?
  • How are evaluations done? What is the process of setting goals, objectives, strategic priorities, vision alignment and measurement?
  • What are the administrative committees or teams, such as facilities or management?
  • Obtain the Dashboard. Obtain four years of attendance & donations, balance sheets and income/expense sheets. Obtain a recent vacation accrual analysis and zip code analysis.
  • Obtain official papers, such as the constitution, policies, procedures, org charts and staff bios with pictures.

Leadership and Governance

  • What are the expectations of the XP on this position? Expectations of the SP, governing board, pastors, directors, support staff and congregation? Will the key leaders use the People Patterns Indicator to help you understand their expectations?
  • What are the relationships on the leadership team and is there anyone who may leave in the short-term?
  • What is the XP job description, history of position, scope and authority? Will there be an employment contract?
  • How much time away is allowed for external ministry?
  • What is the governance style and make-up, board & issues, style, frequency and level of participation by the XP?
  • What are the church’s vision and values? Are ministries aligned with the vision? Does the vision statement need to be refocused?
  • What are the church’s current issues, problems and challenges?
  • How does this position use the Five Functions of an XP—Administrator, Catalyst, Mentor, Minister, and Overseer?
  • What is the role of the SP?  What are the governing board’s expectations of the SP? What does the SP job description look like? How much time is spent in preaching, vision casting, leading key staff, micro-managing? What is the role of delegation by the SP to the XP?

Church Issues

  • What is the history of the church, doctrine, distinctives, unique ministries, hurts, habits and hang-ups? How is the fruit of the Spirit seen at the church?
  • What is the role of small groups, peacemaking, Celebrate Recovery, missions, leadership development and communications?
  • What is the church culture, view on social issues and the relationship between learning, worshipping and serving?
  • Does the church have passion? What is the preaching style? Is there prayer and holiness?
  • What about staff wives? What is the culture and expectations? Are wives allowed to work at the church?


  • Describe the church in relation to the city’s demographics. What kind of education, jobs, culture, average age, percent of the congregation that live within five miles, roads and highways?
  • Where do the staff live, as well as other church leaders?

Situational Questions

  • Give some examples of recent goals that you have set and how you achieved them.
  • Describe a time when you went way above job requirements to complete an assignment.
  • How do you deal with conflict? Describe a conflict that you resolved.
  • How do you cope with the pressures of ministry and a congregation that can communicate with you 24 hours a day via email, social networking and cell phone calls?
  • Whether it is an administrative assistant or a volunteer, talk about how you motivate others to do their best work.
  • Whether it is an administrative assistant or a volunteer, talk about how you have delegated work to others.
  • How do you make decisions? Describe a difficult decision that you have made.
  • How do you deal with failure? Tell of a project that has failed.
  • Describe a situation when you had to comply with a policy that you didn’t agree with.
  • What does initiative look like to you? Are you entrepreneurial or prefer to follow someone else’s vision for your work? Talk about where you have initiative in a project or ministry.
  • Leaders often make decisions that are unpopular by some. Describe a decision that you have made that some have disagreed with.
  • A parent of a high school student is upset at the church. What are the steps that you will do in talking to this person?
  • Talk about how you prioritize your work.