"WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK THE ELDERS?" One of the finest young preachers I know recently called to tell me that he and his wife were going to spend a weekend interviewing with a church. He requested that I send him a list of topics and questions that he should talk to the elders about.
Here are a few of my thoughts I shared with him along with a few additions.
SHOULD I EVEN TALK WITH OTHER CONGREGATIONS?
When I was a young preacher the occasional call would come from a church telling me they were looking for a young preacher and asking if I would talk with them (now I get calls often from elders telling me they are looking for a young preacher and the question is, “Do you know someone you could recommend?”)!!
Should I speak with another church if I am happy where I am? Is it wrong for me to visit with other churches while I already have a job. There are probably different thoughts about this, but here is my take on it.
We sometime pray that God will help us to be able to serve where we can do the most good for Him. How can we know the answer to that if we are not willing to listen to others?
One of the highlights of my preaching life was the opportunity to be closely associated with brother Wendell Winkler during my early years of preaching. It was a rich blessing to be around him nearly every day for ten years. We spent hours talking about preaching, praying together, and discussing the work of the church. I learned more from him than I can ever repay by helping others.
Brother Winkler told me one time that he thought it was important to at least give a hearing to any church or eldership who contacted me. He said, “How do you no if you need to be with a church if you don’t at least hear what they have to say?”
QUESTIONS & TOPICS TO DISCUSS WITH ELDERS OR CHURCH LEADERS
DOCTRINE - It is difficult to believe, but it is important to ask specific questions about the doctrinal beliefs of a congregation. Unfortunately in our day nothing can be taken for granted. We can no longer assume that we are on the same page doctrinally with everyone.
Doctrinal topics to discuss should include: the unique nature of the church, baptism for the remission of sins, the worship of the church (specifically instrumental music and the observance of the Lord’s Supper every Sunday), the role of women in the worship if the church, and other important doctrinal concerns.
It is also important to make sure that you can work with a church even if you do not agree on non-doctrinal matters? It may be that you agree on doctrinal matters but there are matters of judgment where you disagree and cannot work together successfully.
THE PREACHER’S JOB DESCRIPTION - It is important to have a clear understanding of what is expected of the preacher. We need to know what is expected regarding office hours, visitation, church publications, special events, and any other assignments that we might be given.
We need to know how much study time we will be given. It is important to know about to the relationship that the preacher will have with other staff members. Is he expected to be an office manager or a staff supervisor?
THE PREACHER & ELDERS - It is important for the preacher to know about the relationship he will have with the elders. How do the elders view him? Will he be allowed to attend elders meetings? Are the elders willing to make visits with him? As he grows in his relationship with the church and in his knowledge of Scripture do the elders receive advice from him?
WORK SCHEDULE - At some point in discussions about a potential move it is important to learn about the work schedule. Will there be time off during the week? What about vacation time and holidays?
It is also important to ask if you will be allowed to preach in Gospel meetings, Summer Series, Lectureships, workshops, etc and how many of each you can be involved in?
Will the preacher be allowed to attend lectureships or seminars (will they be paid for by the church or is he expected to pay for them himself)? If you want to continue your education while working with the church it is important to ask the leadership about it.
SALARY - This is always a delicate matter but it is something that must be discussed. It is always best if the leaders of the church you are visiting with will take the lead in this discussion.
During the discussion it is important to learn about the salary, to know when and how often you will be paid, is insurance and/or retirement included or do you have to provide that for yourself, and ask if there are annual raises?
If the salary being offered is not enough to provide for your family don’t be afraid to ask the leaders if it can be raised. If it cannot and you can’t provide for your family it is not necessary to accept the job.
Another thing I remember brother Winkler saying was that a preacher who is having to constantly worry about if he is going to have enough money to buy food, pay bills, etc., will not be able to do his best for the Lord and the church.
These are just a few thoughts that might help as you think about discussions with elders and church leaders when you are considering working with a congregation. Above all we must spend time in prayer as we think about decisions we are considering. We should discuss these matters with our family as well as others we respect.
I know there are other topics and questions that need to be discussed and I hope others will fill free to add your own. Your suggestions and comments will be helpful to many who are reading this post.
“Dear Father, help us as we have opportunity to discuss the work of the church with others to always be kind and respectful. Help us to always consider what is best for Your cause. Help us, dear God to be serious about Your work. We pray for young preachers who are even now considering leaving one congregation to work with another one. Please give us wisdom in every decision that needs to be made. In the Name of Jesus we pray, Amen.”