Interview Tips for Student Pastors

Interviewing for a job can be a terrifying experience or it can be a great experience. If you are called into student ministry, you will probably interview with different churches as you seek God’s direction.

 Important principles as you prepare and interview:

– Be secure in God’s call for your life.
– Do not jump at everything.
– Every church might not be a  good fit for you.
– Interview them as much or more as they interview you.
– Do your homework.
– Be honest at the beginning because the truth always comes out eventually.
– Answer questions from your heart, not for their approval.
– Pray. Pray. Pray.

Here are some suggested questions during the interview. Don’t feel like you have to use them, but they are a list of ideas to think through and ask. The questions below are some I’ve collected over the years. 

Church Questions:

If you could paint a picture of a healthy student ministry, what would it be?
What is your job description for the position?
How many youth pastors have you had in the past? Why do you think they left?
What is the overall budget?
What is the churches vision and mission statement?
Paint a picture of the needed youth pastor in your church?
What is the vision for the church? For the students?
What are your values?
What is the history of the church? Last 5 years?
What are the leadership styles of the pastor?
What expectations do you have of a youth pastor?
What draws most new people to your church? What is the key to successful growth?

Lead Pastor/Executive Pastor Questions:

Describe your leadership style?
What are your strengths? (strengths finder test) Spiritual gifting?
What frustrations have you had with the student ministry in the past?
When and how often are staff meetings? Will I be included in those?
Do you have an open door policy?
What are the strongest areas of the church? What are the weakest or need improvement?
What are the expectations for my spouse?
What is the church leadership structure?
Are elders and/or deacons a part of the structure and what role do they fulfill in this church?
Who can hire me or fire me?
How long do you plan on staying here?

Student Ministry Questions:

How do you view a student minister? Pastoral Staff? Activities Director?
What is your vision for the student ministry?
How many volunteers are working with the student ministry now?
Will I have any support staff? Interns? Will I oversee them directly?
How does the budget process happen in the student ministry?
Where do most of the students go to school?
How do you feel about my time in the office vs. outside the office spending time with students?
Will there be a time that I could sit down and get to know some of the adult volunteers?

Practical/Financial:

What are the office hours? Is there flexibility when overtime is put in?
Does the pastoral staff take off a day during the week?
How often is there a salary review? Who would perform my review?
How many weeks of vacation per year and when are you eligible to take vacation?
insurance benefits? When do they begin? How much is dependent coverage? Health, Dental, Disability, Life, Retirement Investments?
Would you cover moving expenses?
Would the church provide a laptop for my office?
What is the approval process for making purchases?
Will the church provide a cell phone?
Will the church reimburse for mileage expense?
Will the church pay for me to attend conferences?
What is the annual salary and what benefits are included?

Questions to Ask Yourself:

Would you choose this pastor and church as your church home if you lived in this town and were not on paid staff?
Can you live on the salary proposed for the next three years?
Could my spouse/children be happy in the schools and community?
Can you submit to this person as your pastor?
Can you see yourself staying in this position long-term?
Do the values of the church line up with my values?
What are my nonnegotiables?

What questions or thoughts would you add?
What have you learned preparing for the interview process?

Comments

  1. Aaron Helman says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s one area where youth workers and churches are, in my experience, woefully under-trained.

    The interview should be an opportunity for the church and the candidate to decide if this is a good match, but they can’t do that if they aren’t honest and if they don’t ask the right questions.

    1. Honesty is key on both sides. It is a crucial part of the process of asking the right questions! Thanks for the comment

  2. Aaron Helman says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s one area where youth workers and churches are, in my experience, woefully under-trained.

    The interview should be an opportunity for the church and the candidate to decide if this is a good match, but they can’t do that if they aren’t honest and if they don’t ask the right questions.

    1. Honesty is key on both sides. It is a crucial part of the process of asking the right questions! Thanks for the comment

  3. Great list. Wish I had had this a few months ago.

  4. Jonathan Pearson says:

    Great list. Wish I had had this a few months ago.

  5. Heather Lea Campbell says:

    Great list! :)

  6. HeatherLeaCampbell says:

    Great list! :)

  7. Allen Posey says:

    Great list

  8. After taking a closer look, this list looks like a project I had to do for a seminary class at Liberty. Is that where this stemmed from?

    1. You know I don’t remember, I compiled it over the last few years as I researched and learned from mentors

  9. Jonathan Pearson says:

    After taking a closer look, this list looks like a project I had to do for a seminary class at Liberty. Is that where this stemmed from?

    1. You know I don’t remember, I compiled it over the last few years as I researched and learned from mentors

  10. kparker170 says:

    Great list, Josh. I had a similar list that I took with me to each interview, and it really aided in the process 12 years ago, before I landed at Hazelwood. I think it’s been a pretty good fit…:)

    1. that is great Keith, It is great you have been at your church for 12 years

  11. Keith Parker says:

    Great list, Josh. I had a similar list that I took with me to each interview, and it really aided in the process 12 years ago, before I landed at Hazelwood. I think it’s been a pretty good fit…:)

    1. that is great Keith, It is great you have been at your church for 12 years

  12. If you are married, it is extremely important to make sure the church does not have overzealous expectations for your wife…or that, in my case, they are okay with her doing ministry at other churches on Sundays…

    What are your views of wives ministering seperate from their husbands…my wife is in the music ministry, so she is usually leading worship at a different church every Sunday…What are y’all’s views…

    I am okay with it, but we have had some real push back here lately…

    1. Yes I agree completely. It is always a family move, so clarifying expectations for the family and your spouse is crucial.
      We try to stay committed to our local church but I don’t see a problem with a spouse sharing music at other ones, we just wouldn’t do it every week. My wife is a singer/song writer but she serves our home church first and then goes from there.
      I think a big part of it is seeing the vision/direction/passion of your leaders and being united with them

    2. Tom Shriver says:

      YES! State up front that your wife is your wife – not your assistant youth minister. I think it’s fine, Zach, but I definitely prefer to have my wife in worship with me. Not for appearance or because the Church wants it, but because I cherish our time in worhsip together.

      1. Totally…I love her there as well, but this was God’s calling on her life…it is also a help in paying the bills…of course I would not let her do it just for the money, but until God says we should not do it any more…we see it as a blessing…

  13. If you are married, it is extremely important to make sure the church does not have overzealous expectations for your wife…or that, in my case, they are okay with her doing ministry at other churches on Sundays…

    What are your views of wives ministering seperate from their husbands…my wife is in the music ministry, so she is usually leading worship at a different church every Sunday…What are y’all’s views…

    I am okay with it, but we have had some real push back here lately…

    1. Yes I agree completely. It is always a family move, so clarifying expectations for the family and your spouse is crucial.
      We try to stay committed to our local church but I don’t see a problem with a spouse sharing music at other ones, we just wouldn’t do it every week. My wife is a singer/song writer but she serves our home church first and then goes from there.
      I think a big part of it is seeing the vision/direction/passion of your leaders and being united with them

    2. Tom Shriver says:

      YES! State up front that your wife is your wife – not your assistant youth minister. I think it’s fine, Zach, but I definitely prefer to have my wife in worship with me. Not for appearance or because the Church wants it, but because I cherish our time in worhsip together.

      1. Totally…I love her there as well, but this was God’s calling on her life…it is also a help in paying the bills…of course I would not let her do it just for the money, but until God says we should not do it any more…we see it as a blessing…

  14. Timbo says:

    Thank you for this! I’m heading off to an interview in a couple hours and I’ve borrowed a few of these questions to use! This is a great resource!

    1. I’m glad it helps! Hope your interview goes well!

  15. Timbo says:

    Thank you for this! I’m heading off to an interview in a couple hours and I’ve borrowed a few of these questions to use! This is a great resource!

    1. I’m glad it helps! Hope your interview goes well!

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