25 Unbelievable Things Search Committees Said to Pastoral Candidates

It began as a conversation at Church Answers where we have 2,000 church leaders interacting almost 24 hours a day. They can ask questions about their churches, or they can just interact with one another about the hopes and travails of ministry.

I read as many of the comments as possible. This one caused me to pause. A pastor was interviewing with a search committee when one of the committee members asked him if he would be on 24/7 call 365 days a week. Taken aback, the pastor then asked the search committee member how many hours a week he was expected to work. The response? Up to 120 hours a week!


As other pastors and staff members interacted with this pastor, I decided to take the question to social media. I wanted to ask the question specifically to lead pastors, but I included church staff as well. Here was my question: “Pastors and church staff: What is a question you’ve been asked by a search committee (or its equivalent) that told you the church is not a good fit for you?”

We got dozens of the expected responses like, “Does your wife play piano?” But we got many more that shocked us. By this point, you would think that I couldn’t be shocked how some churches treat a pastor or staff member.

Here are 25 of the shocking questions or comments in no particular order: 

  1. Our last pastor preached for 18 minutes. Can you keep it under 20 minutes?
  1. The salary is low, but we will pay you a commission for each new tithing family that joins the church.
  1. What is your political party affiliation?
  1. What is the least amount we can pay you to come?
  1. We do monthly cleaning inspections of the parsonage. You will need to make sure your wife keeps it clean.
  1. Do you mind if we have a Christmas tree in the pulpit?
  1. Your wife can’t take a job outside the home because she will be too busy at the church.
  1. Are you a Calvinist? (several times)
  1. Will you preach out of the King James Version? (several times)
  1. What do you think about coloreds in the church? (Sadly, several racist questions were asked, including one church that used extremely inappropriate racial language.)
  1. Will you play at least two hymns a week? The old hymns?
  1. Would you be okay if we parked another single wide by the existing one as a parsonage for your whole family?
  1. Do you own a weapon?
  1. We want you to preach for a month and see how it works out. (The candidate lived out of state.)
  1. What is your position on interracial marriages?
  1. If you came here, we would want you to fire the youth minister. Would you be willing to do that?
  1. Do you let the singers hold the microphones themselves?
  1. Have you ever held a rattlesnake?
  1. Would you be willing to shave your facial hair?
  1. You have to mow the parsonage lawn at the same time they mow the church yard.
  1. The pastor’s office hours are 9 to 5 Monday through Friday.
  1. When discovering the pastoral candidate had a physical disability, the search committee person said, “Oh, we don’t want a pastor that’s disabled. You have to stand while you are preaching.”
  1. What are your views on mixed bathing?
  1. Boxers or briefs?
  1. How’s your sex life?

Unbelievable. So unbelievable. Feel free to add your own.

Posted on March 14, 2022

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Most of these questions are stupid, of course. But several of them are both relevant and appropriate. I would want to know if he is a Calvinist. Doctrine is important. I also think it is important to know which Bible version he uses. If a church believes that the versions are not equally accurate, which shouldn’t they ask which version he uses? Also, hymns. If a church believes hymns are the right choice for their church, why would they want a new pastor to come in and change the music? This isn’t even about saying who’s right and who’s wrong between these issues. Doesn’t the church have the right to know the views of the man who would pastor them? Even party affiliation is a valid question. If I discovered that a pastoral candidate was a member of a political party which believed in abortion, homosexual marriage, and other things that are clearly not okay with God, that would be a deal-breaker for me.

  • For years I preached from the KJV, and still do when speaking at a church that uses it. Where I am now, most carry the NIV, so that’s what I use. If the goal is to communicate, almost any version is better than the KJV, which does not speak to most today, especially younger folks. I had a seminary professor who went for a revival and used the RSV. He was told that was unacceptable. He consequently read from his Greek NT and translated as he went.

  • A pastor friend interviewed at a church and was told that he could have two weeks vacation, at his expense, because he would not be paid if he was gone. He was also informed that they had two weeks of revival each year. During those weeks he was not paid, as his salary was to be given to the visiting evangelist. Understandably, he decided not to go to this chuch.

  • Sounds like the Laodicean Church age is upon us and the continued demise of Protestantism which began with the State Church of England.. Thank God for the Church Christ built. It still stands alone.

  • Hard to believe that some search committees don’t even comprehend that some of those questions are not only inappropriate, they could be illegal. Hopefully, none of them got a pastor.

  • I had a church ask if I was “handy,” because they needed some things fixed around the church and then expressed frustration when I told them I was not.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Of course.

    • Michael Liles says on

      The first church I pastored had it in the by laws that the pastor should “vigorously urge the committees in the performance of their duties.”. Once when we had a string of issues such as a main restroom being out of order, I gathered the B&G committee and asked them to make the necessary repairs. The next day I found the Out of Order sign from the restroom had been left for me with “Are your hands broke?” written on it. I still have the sign; I’ll keep it for ever. LOL!

  • Tim Schaefer says on

    “You talked about racial justice…don’t you think all Black lives matter and we should also be talking about Black on Black crime?”

    “Since you and your husband are both men, which one of you cooks? Cleans? Does the yard work?”

    “How would you make sure not to be political from the pulpit? If you talk about anything too controversial, you’ll turn off half the congregation.”

    • Scott Hays-Strom says on

      Oh I have to laugh! I go to a progressive church, and as a member my husband and I get asked your second question regularly.

      Other chuckle is your last question and statement. I was on the last search committee, and helped edit one portion of the search package. When one committee member read that part, the person asked if we could remove the statement about preaching from the Bible; because we’re progressive and didn’t want us to sound too “Jesusy!”

  • I was asked in a pastoral interview once if me and my family liked venison. In another interview I was asked if it was okay if the youth group met in the parsonage on Wednesday and Sundays (at the time I had 3 small children).

  • God will help us

  • Nathan Wilkerson says on

    I don’t think asking a pastoral candidate if he is a Calvinist is an unreasonable or unbelievable thing to ask. They need to know what he believes about soteriology.

    • The term “Calvinist” is both loaded and misunderstood. I had a church history professor who said that Calvin was not a Calvinist. He went on to explain that some of Calvin’s followers took his beliefs beyond what he actual said or taught.

  • #4. I am bi-vocational. In a very kind way I let the pulpit committee know that I was not “needing” a church but they were “needing” a pastor. Thus, I told them that I didn’t care about the money. I would come for free if God wanted me there. With the salary they offered they wanted me to come full-time. Since many are retired they did not take into consideration the extreme expense of things such as health insurance. Thus, I am vi-vocational. If they cut my salary down to zero I trust to keep preaching.
    #21. Upfront I told the church that I will not have official office hours. I am a pastor of people and not a building. At my “secular” job I do bring a lap top and am able to accomplish a great deal of pastoral work.

  • I was interviewing for a youth pastor position and was told that part of my job performance would be contingent on how many kids got saved throughout the year.

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