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!

Seriously.

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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65 Comments

  • Not really a question but I had driven several hours to interview. Upon arriving the first comment was, “oh, you are short. On the phone you sounded taller.”

  • My dad was asked on one in differentforms but basically: Does your wife sleep in pajama pants or a proper night gown…

  • Mark Woods says on

    Re: the crazy questions asked of pastoral candidates – I’ve been a pastor for 45 years – my smallest church had 20 attenders, and my largest had 700 – I am now an interim pastor of a church that has been ripped apart by two very bad pastors in the past five years. Some of those questions mentioned would be applicable for this church to ask in order to weed out the next pastoral candidate who might be another dud. Yes – some of those questions are dumb. But I have learned that what concerns a church – especially a small church – about a pastoral candidate is usually due to the absolutely devastating consequences that idiotic, narcissistic, bullying previous pastors have wreaked on a congregation that now has to live with the aftermath of the destruction that has been caused by them. The pastor gets to move on to his next victim. The church has to live with the remnant of what’s left, including, in a lot of cases, the opprobrium and bad reputation in a small community. Perhaps a second article would be in order – “Twenty-five Really Idiotic Things that Pastors Have Done and Said that Ripped Apart Communities of Faith.”

  • I told them my wife smoked the interview went south from there
    It had been going very well.

  • Allen W Baker says on

    I was once asked, “What version of the Bible I preach from?” I responded, “The Mormon Bible.” To which she said “Oh” I let them know I was joking, just wanted to see their response. Have fun in these interviews.
    But the best was How many more years do you have to preach? Now I am 60, but I don’t know when God will call me home,but I’m going to give it my all until then.

  • Some of them are just ridiculous but churches actually have a right to ask if you are calvinist, use KJV, will you show up around church (a lot of lazy pastors) and what is your level of personal separation. It would be very bad if they did not ask these important questions.

  • Steve Hicks says on

    In my first appointment a lady called my District Supervisor to complain. “He read 62 versus of Scripture yesterday. Yes, that was her complaint…I had read TOO much Scripture as I told the story of David and Goliath.

    • Dana Schindler says on

      I had a man report me to the conference minister saying “I’m sick and tired of her preaching that we have to love each other.”

  • Not so much a question but a statement… “We need a pastor and a youth worker and with you we kill two birds with one stone”.

    No, you would kill me.

  • RuthAnne Henley says on

    I was once asked if I could preach from the choir loft or sanctuary floor because the pulpit was reserved for male preachers, “…the way God intended. “

  • John Edwin Sharp says on

    One thing I do agree on is that the congregation should know clearly your position on the doctrines of free and sovereign grace, not the type of underwear you wear, or the health and nature of your sex life, nor whether you share a bath with your wife!!!!

  • I have had my wife profession used against us. It goes like this. What does your wife do? Oh she an RN! Then you don’t need much in pay.

  • Andrew Bumpus says on

    My wife was once asked if she and I fought at choir practice.

    Many times these “off-the-wall” questions reveal issues the church wish they had dealt with on the former pastor/staff (but didn’t have the guts to address).