I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel today to play the part of a board member grilling a potential youth pastor. I hate to admit it but I had way too much fun. I asked hard questions based on my own experiences and questions I wished pastors would have asked me. Needless to say, based on my questioning, I like my potential youth pastors extra crispy.
The first person interviewed, and the youngest of the three, looked at his shoes a lot, said umm a lot, and was generally confused. I smelled blood in the water so I ramped up the questioning. My fellow board members laughed at how tough my questions were but I resolved that I would do this kid no favors by asking softball questions. I think we all started out naive. I just wanted to work with kids, help kids, minister to kids, but we quickly found out that working at a church required more than just a desire to minister to kids. Through my questions, I tried to let this kid know that more would be required of him and that he had to think a little deeper.
The second kid interviewed was older had some experience, but not really, he was working for his brother. Working for family is different than working for a stranger. Family will overlook our flaws and put up with nonsense a stranger will not.
This young man had quick answers, had given deeper thought to the issues, and was generally well prepared. My goal was to break him, and I did (insert evil laughter here), with a plan. I thought back to my younger days and what I was like. I had a little experience under my belt. Although I played it humble, I really did think I knew best. I wish someone would have kicked that arrogance out of me.
The third person interviewed was a seasoned veteran, 38 years old, and pastoring a church, who had to take this class and therefore go through this interview process. We were much kinder and gentler with him. Why? Because, there is truly no substitute for experience, a.k.a failure, etc. This person had nothing to prove as maybe the other two felt they did. We asked him about his church, how he blended youth and the adults together, and his dreams. He passed with flying colors.
My fellow “board members” asked some great questions and I am adding them into this list. Every church interview you go to will be different so just use this as a guide and not as the gospel. We only grilled each interviewee for about 45 minutes each. The normal interview will be much longer and you may go through several committees. Here are eleven questions a youth pastor should be able to answer in an interview.
1. What is the gospel?
Of all the questions we should be able to answer, it is this one. If you don’t have a clear answer to this, you need to look for another job. The church you are applying to should also have a clear answer to this questions and your answers should match if you’re to get anything done. It’s not the definition we often get tripped up on, it is the “how do we practice” the gospel is where we must decide if this job is worth it.
2. What does it mean to disciple students?
I want to know this. The Pastor and board you are sitting in front of may or may not, but that does not mean you shouldn’t have an answer. On the surface, everyone says they want to make disciples who make disciples, but many pastors are concerned with the image, not the substance or the process of making these disciples. If you’re passionate about making disciples, have your process well thought out and what a disciple looks like. If you need help in this are check out my book The Disciple Project to clarify your purpose and process for making disciples.
3. How do you handle conflict?
Why is this important? Because you’re going to have conflict and it is inevitable. How you handle the kids, adults and staff that may disagree with your decisions or programming is critical.
4. How important is prayer and the bible to your ministry?
It will be assumed that you pray and read your Bible. If you’re not having a daily time in prayer and the Word, you’re setting yourself up for failure. It is more likely that you will hear “how many did you have in your mid-week, Sunday School class, small group, before you will be asked about your devotion time. Even more reason to make sure you have spiritual disciplines in place so you can keep your relationship with God strong.
5. What are your strengths?
Be honest and don’t tell them what you are, hands down, great at. If your specialty is communicating, tell them. If it’s organizing, put that up front. Focus on your strengths and why they are important to moving a youth program forward.
6. What are your weaknesses?
Be honest, but not too honest. Don’t say “I’m terrible at…” or “I struggle with…” instead, say “I’m learning how to be a better…”. If you’re not good at delegating, better get on it, because you’ll have no idea what this church is looking for but you can be sure you won’t be a perfect match for all of them.
7. Do you work better in a team or alone?
The answer is team, even if it isn’t. You may do some things well by yourself, but over all, the church wants to know if you’re a team player not a loner ranger.
8. What kind of outreach strategies have you used?
If you’re brand spanking new, you probably don’t have one. If you grew up in a youth ministry that did outreaches, talk about the ones that worked in your youth ministry and why they may work in this church.
If you need a good outreach idea, I have one here
9. How would you deal with a teenager in trouble?
This is a deeper question that may or may not be asked, but you should already have answer to it. Make sure you ask questions like, “What kind of trouble?”, “Does the family come to this church?”, “Does the church have any kind of policies already in place?”. The big answer is, “I work with the family and the church to find resolution.”
11. If you knew you could not fail what you attempt?
This speaks to your dreams and not just your skill or passion level. Always be able to define your dream.
My Bonus Question
12. Star Wars or Star Trek?
If you say Star Trek, be prepared to answer Kirk or Picard. If you say Star Wars, be prepared to tell me why the new Star Wars movie will not suck. (o.k., I’m the only person who would ask this question in an interview but I want to know your geek quotient)
This, of course is not a definitive list. It’s a primer of simple questions most pastors, (this Pastor) should/would want to know.
What is the best question you’ve ever been asked in an interview?
What is the worst question you have ever been asked in an interview?
What question do wish a Pastor would have asked you before you took the job?
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