Interviewing the pastor of a prospective new church

I don’t know if anyone has done this, I am assuming some have, but have you considered interviewing the pastor of a church before joining and talking to members? Maybe it would be easier to do that than start attending for a while, then later finding out it’s not what you think. I know that there is a chance for deception in that way too, but I did that with my church.

This is a question that Lynette D put in another post and I’ve removed it from that thread and created a new post for it here.

Please don’t take offense, Lynette — we really appreciate your question, and are thankful for you bringing it up. We are all so talkative on this blog 🙂 and I’m trying to keep the conversations easy to follow….and making sure the optimum cohort of readers might benefit from them.

[From Barb….playing catch up like crazy….sometimes I feel like a teacher in a classroom where the buzz of conversation is very loud but very educationally productive; and I wondering whether I can last ’til recess. Love you all!]

[September 12, 2022: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to September 12, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to September 12, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to September 12, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (September 12, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]

9 thoughts on “Interviewing the pastor of a prospective new church”

  1. BBBBzzzzzzzzzz….sorry, Barb, couldn’t resist! LOL

    Yes, I’ve thought seriously of writing up a list of questions and scheduling an appointment before our next go ’round. My children and I have been seriously discussing just returning to our old church, and my 16 year old already texted and called the youth pastor and asked him if he will be welcomed back or not. He has a conversation planned for youth group next week, his first week back. I suggested that he talk to the youth pastor before youth group, but my son wants to talk to him in person, face-to-face.

    I haven’t written up my list of questions and concerns yet, but I can tell you for certain that I plan to offer the associate pastor Barb’s book. He is the one I went to before my husband left. I told the associate pastor that my husband was going to end up killing me and I was creating a safety plan to leave. His reaction was, “Oh, we’ll be praying you don’t do that.” He NEEDS to read Barb’s book. However, one time I printed off some info on DV from the internet and dropped it at the front desk. The head pastor apparently read it because, although he never said a word to me, he positively mentioned several of the points from the papers in his sermon the next Sunday.

    I think an interview is a wise thing to do. I sure wish I had before we started in at the last church where we had such a bad experience. For instance, I went back through some of the old posts on here and found where Pastor Crippen quoted the “Westminster Catechism” where it talked about the leaders being involved in the decision to divorce. If I had understood that at the time of my “tribunal”, I probably would not have gone in that room with those men. I’d have known what they were up to. Who knows, maybe I wouldn’t have taken it as such personal judgment either if I understood that they believe it is their positional right to judge and determine. It just puts us in a place of power to ask questions of them before we hand the power to them to judge us as we sit in their pews. (Not that that is right.)

    [Paragraph breaks added to enhance readability. Editors.]

      1. Ack. I wish we could edit. I should have said that “you must be very proud”, rather than saying “you should be proud.” You sound like a great mama who’s done a really great job!

      2. Sorry about the inability to edit, JM. I don’t think we can set that up within WordPress. I know on some Forums you can edit your own comments and even delete them if you want, but this blogging software doesn’t do that, so far as I know.

  2. In the last two churches I’ve attended, the first I actually called the pastor before ever visiting and gave him my whole story over the phone. I wouldn’t have even been comfortable walking into that church at that point without feeling I was going to be in a safe place.

    The more recent church I was in a healthier place and felt strong enough to attend first – but as soon as I started feeling comfortable with the church I approached the pastor for a personal meeting. This ended up being quite stressful as I’d already made some connections and was worried I would hit a wall, but he was very gracious and compassionate.

    I think the tough thing to balance is not wanting my identity to be about my past, and making that the first thing known about myself makes it feel that way. I want to feel safe, but I also want to move on – it’s a tough balance.

    I will also say I don’t know how much more difficult it would have been to make that first phone call if I were a woman.

  3. Thanks, Laurie and Jeff, for your comments.
    There are so many nuances in this. The desire for my abuse history to not be seen as my primary identity, versus my desire to have my history known about how previous churches have been my secondary abusers because of their mishandling of my domestic abuse = an almost impossible paradox. Damned if you do; damned if you don’t. And I’m saying that’s a dynamic in my own brain, a battle going on inside my skull, even if it isn’t a conflict out there in objective reality.
    The need to feel safe; the need to process and recover from previous church abuse; the need to move on and have more in one’s life than domestic abuse….all pressing needs.

    Personally, I choose to prioritise recovering from trauma, which means being able to talk, gush, vent, be believed, be emotional, be ragged and raw round the edges, be not judged while doing so…..for as long as it takes.
    I prioritise this because in my experience, I’m much more able to move on when I’ve properly processed the trauma. Any attempts to push myself on while stuffing my feelings are not very effective (for me).

    When I left the church that condemned me for leaving my first husband, I did a bit of church shopping. The third church I visited seemed not too bad, sermon-wise. I didn’t have the guts or the frontal-brain understanding to interview the pastor first up. But once I felt a bit of respect for his preaching and his style, I made an appointment to speak to him. I simply wanted to know whether he would condemn me for leaving my husband for the reason of abuse. I put it in a hypothetical question: “What would you say about a woman leaving her husband because of his abuse?” When he answered that he would approve of that action, and not judge it, I told him “That’s me.”

    But those were early days. I think there are lots more questions one could ask a pastor.
    Probably the best questions are open-ended ones that don’t produce just a “Yes” or “No” answer, but instead get the pastor to divulge his views at a bit more length.

    Here’s are some examples:
    “How do you think the church should handle cases of domestic abuse?”
    “Have you ever dealt with cases? How did you deal with them?”
    “What do you think are the major difficulties faced by Christian victims of domestic abuse?”
    “Have you ever thought about the Scriptural dilemmas faced by victims of domestic abuse?”
    “When preparing a sermon, do you ever give thought to how victims and survivors of domestic abuse might hear and understand your sermon?”
    “How would you address a situation where some people in your congregation were stigmatising someone who was divorced?”

    I’ve experienced countless situations where a pastor or leader makes some initial comment about domestic abuse that sounds like he is fully supportive of victims and fully against the perpetration of abuse. But as I got to know them more, the shallowness of their understanding became painfully apparent. I think we need to discuss this a lot more here on places like this blog, to tease it out more, so as to better equip ourselves with these questioning and discernment skills.

    1. But as I got to know them more, the shallowness of their understanding became painfully apparent.

      Yes, I do not understand how they can not get it. The first year I was separated we were “in counseling”. In my state you have to be separated a year anyway and I figured that it couldn’t hurt (poor understanding, it took me three months to figure out about the abuse….I thought it was “normal”). But in that time he stole / hacked my computer three times, told me that boundaries were something for him to blow up not respect and invaded my house forcing me to call 911 then said I coerced him into invading my house so I could call the police. His pastor was aware of all of this, was aware of all the incidences I had brought up, the patterns I had discussed (not with my ex but with the three counselors) and yet still to this day says he is totally against domestic violence and all abuse but my situation was a “he said / she said” situation. Yeah….not so much!

      1. SS, so sorry. That pastor sounds almost unteachable.
        I wonder if we could tie him to a chair for two days and get him to read Lundy Bancroft? Oh, no, that would be abuse, wouldn’t it.

      2. Well, at least he is not my pastor. My pastor still is surprised when my ex reacts badly, like it’s unexpected. But he believes me and supports me and is willing to stand up for me.

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