The Delicate Art of Asking Questions…

Posted on: 07/26/10 5:33 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Last week I received an email from a youth pastor asking an excellent question:

I’m currently a Youth Director (6 Yrs.) applying for a position as a Director of Youth Ministries in a church a few communities over from my present church. I’ve looked through your site and noticed that you have questions for a church to ask an applicant but don’t have any that the applicant should ask the church. What are some questions that you would ask a church during the interview process?

I immediate thought, “My dad could answer this question.”

My dad sits in a pretty unique situation. He was a youth pastor “back in the day” (he actually did a pretty cool podcast with Jim Burns and myself last fall talking about the changes in youth ministry over the decades), then served as a senior pastor, then went into private consulting training managers and recruiters, eventually starting the great free resource for volunteer managers and recruiters:

I emailed him and said, “Dad… wanna take care of this one for me?”

He gladly accepted and wrote this very helpful article on our free TRAINING TOOLS page: The Delicate Art of Asking Questions When Being Interviewed: What do you ask? What do you NOT ask?

Here’s just a snippet:

“Do you provide cell phones for the youth pastors?”

The interview had gone quite well until the applicant asked that question-it changed the whole tone of the interview, which went downhill from there. Too bad because for the first two hours we were all impressed. Then we asked him, “Do you have any questions for us?” and he pulled out a binder and began rattling them off from his list. I felt like we’d moved from interview to negotiation. I began to wonder when his agent was going to walk in the room and ask for a signing bonus.

When Jonathan asked me to write up the kind of questions that I believe a prospective youth pastor should ask in the interview process, I reflected on my 13 years in youth ministry, my decade as a senior pastor, my six years as a member of our church’s personnel committee, and my 20 years as a human resource consultant in private and public sectors. (Wow! I must really be old-that’s a year shy of half a century!) In addition to that, I’ve sat in on at least 50 interviews and witnessed the best and worst of them.

If you’re interviewing for a youth pastor position, I have four suggestions that will help you demonstrate your strengths, your experiences, and your affirmation that God’s directed you to be open for this position. And at the same time not feeling as though you’re being taken advantage of “in the name of ministry” (e.g., working 80 hours a week for part-time pay).

Suggestion One: Don’t Ask Questions-Seek Information
At the end of this article are more than 40 questions you want answered before accepting a youth ministry position.

The trick is getting this information without asking a list of questions.

How do you do that? One word…


Pretty cool stuff. Shout out to my pop!