Before agreeing to an interview, be aware of the polity of the denomination this church represents. If your contact has come from an authorized member of the congregation, be sure to check with a “higher” governing level if appropriate to make sure you can proceed. You can also gain some helpful background on the church situation by doing so.

Be aware that an interim pastor begins their work even at the interviewing stage, in many respects by establishing a practice of self-examination, trust-building, honesty, and openness. Consider the ways in which you can serve as a “mirror” to reflect accurately, and graciously, what they show you and what you see.

What are the circumstances surrounding the departure of this church’s most recent pastor? Listen for signs of grief, anxiety, conflict/tension, frustration. Think about how you might go about addressing these needs. What is likely to pass with time? What situations might need your intervention?

Discuss what an interim minister can do: provide a chance to grieve before the church enters a relationship with a new pastor, a chance to address conflict/tension, an opportunity to rediscover a sense of identity and reclaim mission direction, time to allow for readjustments to take place, a good way to lower anxiety during the search and provide leadership while search takes place, etc. What does this church need in order to be prepared to receive a new pastor? Which needs do they recognize? Take your cues from them, add in your perceptions, but always remember your role as an interim.

What about the “maintenance needs” of the church? What tasks, groups, programs will need your attention? Who will you be partnering with in tackling these? You may need to draw out assumptions they have about expectations.

Who else does the church have on staff? What is expected of you in relating to them?

How does the Council/Cabinet/Consistory function? Observe their interactions. What are their strengths and stretching points? Are they clue-less or on top of things? Think about how it will be to work with this leadership and consider your leadership style.

What are their plans for the search process? Are they clear about their direction as a church and what their needs are? Their strengths and call to mission? If the situation warrants it, try to delay the church jumping into the search if they show signs they are not yet ready for it and the results might be unproductive. Talk about giving some time to be together in order to come up with “indicators” for how they will know when it’s time to move to a search process. When a church takes the time to “let the dust settle” they can usually move ahead with more efficient and productive speed in a search.

Ask about their governing board structure – how do decisions get made? What kind of leadership style from you would be most helpful? What is the level of trust between the Session/Council? Cabinet/Consistory and the congregation? Is there “work” to be done here?

What can you offer them in terms of time commitment? How accessible will you be able to be for them?

When do they need you to begin?

Discuss a contract. Clear agreement should be reached about: salary and payment schedule, housing needs or housing allowance, health insurance, pension payments, expenses (travel, etc.), study leave and vacation leave, time commitment, termination clause and timing of notice, lines of accountability.