The Preacher Being Considered #4

From chapter 41 of Between Preachers, by Jerrie Barber

The preacher may feel intense pressure during the interview, with the search committee or elders being completely relaxed. If that’s true, it’s unfortunate. Everybody’s trying out. The church has choices. There’re many preachers available to move. The preacher has choices. There’re many churches looking for preachers. The more everyone realizes and understands, the better the selection can go.

It was next to the last move I’d make as a full-time preacher. A former college classmate, now serving as an elder, called: “I hear you might consider moving.”

“Yes, I’m looking.”

“Would you consider moving to Mobile, Alabama?”

“I’m open now to anywhere in the lower forty-eight states.”

“Good. Send me a résumé, three tapes (remember those and rewinding?), and three references and we’ll look at them.”

“I’ll get those in the mail tomorrow. Please send me your attendance and contribution numbers for the past five years, three tapes of your present preacher’s Sunday morning and Sunday night sermons, and three references.”

“…why do you want those?”

“Why do you want my information?”

“We don’t know you.”

“I don’t know you. Why don’t we start getting acquainted.”

My friend seemed surprised that I’d ask for anything. I was as interested in learning about the congregation as they were concerned about me.

Eleven years earlier, when I was moving, I developed a list of questions I discussed with elders during my interviews. Often, they’d ask if I had any questions. When I pulled the pages of questions out, they seemed relieved. That gave us something to talk about. Read: Questions to Discuss with Elders When Considering Working with a Congregation.

I was trying to solve every doctrinal and procedural issue. If I could get the right match with all these, we wouldn’t have problems while I preached there. It didn’t work that way.

Sixteen years after compiling the first list, I wrote another list. These questions would be the basis of my interviews with

  • Preachers for the past twenty-five years.
  • Associates, youth ministers.
  • Custodians.
  • Happy members.
  • Unhappy members.
  • Members who left happy.
  • Members who left unhappy.

Read: Preacher Interview

Read: Staff Interview

Notice my emphasis in these questions: is this church aware of its strengths and weaknesses and do they and I want to work together to grow to be more like Jesus wants His people to be?

I’ve found one of the most productive questions to ask is: “Matthew 7:12 – If I were in your place and you were in mine, what would you want me to tell you?

I’ve often received valuable information when I’ve been quiet and listened.

What have you found helpful “checking references” on prospective churches?


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Jerrie Barber
Disciple of Jesus, husband, grandfather, preacher, barefoot runner, ventriloquist

2 Responses to “The Preacher Being Considered #4

  • Gary C. Hampton
    6 years ago


    Your article is much needed. Too many preachers have no idea of the type of church they are considering. It may be a good church and still be a poor fit for a particular man and his family.

    Gary C. Hampton

    • Jerrie W. Barber
      6 years ago


      You are on target. Some preachers are afraid to ask the questions to get the answers they need. If elders, search committees are reluctant to share as much of themselves as they are asking of you, that says a lot. If they are open, telling their pluses and minuses, that also tells you something. That may be where you need to be—if you are able to work with the minuses. And every church has them.