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Monday, February 08, 2010

2nd Monday Discussion: Best and Worst

As an Interim Minister, I'm almost never out of search and call mode, so I'm getting used to doing lots of interviews. I've gone in prepared to answer certain things and found they were not asked. I've been put on the spot by other questions and managed to save myself with a good answer. And I've also failed massively! This morning I'm thinking about the best and worst questions I've been asked, and what makes them "best" or "worst" is purely objective, I realize.

In the comments, please share some of the best or worst questions you've been asked in an interview, and tell us what made them feel that way to you. I'll give my questions and answers there, too.


Don't forget our upcoming RevGalBookPals discussion, February 22, when we will talk about ring member Nadia Bolz-Weber's Salvation on the Small Screen? 24 Hours of Christian Television. Nadia bravely watched 24 straight hours of "Christian" television, accompanied by friends who took shifts at her side. She reviews each show and reflects honestly when the theology expressed touches her despite her assumption that would not be likely. I hope you'll join me in the discussion.


  1. "Who is Jesus to you." Now this may seem like a perfectly normal question to ask in a search process for a leader in a Christian church. But for me it is a red button question because I struggle with Who Jesus is to Me. Fist of all I rarely say Jesus, I usually say, Christ. I did manage an answer that was ok enough, but it is a question I'll continue to ponder.

    Recently I watched a DVD presentation by Phyllis Tickle on the Emerging Church. She brought up the idea that some use "Jesus" while others use "Christ" and it has to do with where we fall on the specturm of orthodox/fundamental/progressive/ememerging....

    But now I can't remember exactly what she said, so I have to go back and watch it again...

  2. Worst question ever:
    "where do you stand on feminism? You don't believe in all that 'Christa' nonsense do you?"
    I tried to say 'I think the fact that Jesus (or Christ, Mompriest!) was human is more important than the fact that he was a man. God has to be both male & female if all human beings are made is the image of God. I think women have often felt like second class people in the church, and we need to redress that....' - but basically it was time to get my coat!

    Best question:
    'How are you going to help us to reach out to the people around us with the gospel?' - because it told me they want to reach out, they see mission as teamwork and they believe ministers are here to help. Thanks be to God.

  3. I think the 'worst' is not knowing if they are asking what you think they are asking. Recently, I was asked a question that I think was asking what my opionions are regarding the 2009 ELCA Churchwide decisions--but was phrased in such a way that it also could have been a genuine and thoughtful question about the Bible in today's life. I did not answer with thoughts about the decisions. I hope my answers gave away my thoughts.

    Oh and another worst question, "how many hours do you work?"

  4. My best came at an interview for a job I didn't get, and it was a "best" in the sense that I had no idea how to answer it at first, and later realized how much I had learned from the experience I recounted. The question: "What is something you've learned in ministry that they didn't teach you in seminary?" After a long pause I answered: "How difficult it can be to work with musicians." As a long time choir singer and the mother of musicians, I expected to be the musician's best friend. Not so much. Reflecting on my gains in that area helped me see how much I had developed in working with other people, particularly creative people.
    The worst question, one that came right out of a bad question booklet somewhere: "What would a 7-year-old say about you?" At that moment in my life, I wasn't around ANY 7-year-olds, so I tossed off the following: "She's not much taller than I am!"

  5. Mompriest, I say Jesus *much* more often than Christ, and I do agree that a person's Christology must affect that preference. (Mine is low, most of the time.)
    Ruth, you remind me of some of the questions I got in a phone interview with a very conservative UCC church (yes, we have some!). Getting your coat is right!
    Silent, that sounds like the right way to handle a charged question. You are subtle. :-)

  6. Worst question ever (in a phone interview with a church I never visited, for obvious reasons): "Would my son like to date you?"

    No kidding. I thought of many fabulous responses later, but not much on the spot.

  7. My worst was not even a question - one guy said, "I want someone who wakes up in the morning and the first thing on their mind is Jesus." Umm, I'm not allowed to first think about what time it is or which kid is awake in the other room before I begin my praise and glory for the big J? And, it was clear that his desire was not necessarily first on other people's lists. A divided search committee is not exactly a draw.

  8. That question about the son dating you is a winner (loser?)!

    I remember being asked once to comment on the Apostles' Creed. Umm...which part? It's rather comprehensive. I decided it was a test of my orthodoxy, perhaps aimed specifically at the Virgin Birth. I responded to that intuitive sense and, bingo, I was right. The answer must've been okay too, because I got the call. But it was still an odd question.

    Interesting about the Jesus/Christ terminology. I've always been a pretty liberal Episcopalian, and I most definitely grew up with Christ; I wouldn't presume to use his first name ;-) But along the way, I developed a more intimate sense of Christ, and Jesus worked his way into my vocabulary. It's one of those things I'd love to have a good discussion about with others some day, because I agree that it reflects something significant about our thinking.

  9. It wasn't for a church job, but when I was in college someone asked me in an interview if I could score him any drugs.

    Actually, it was a good lesson, because I sort of stammered, "n-n-no" he laughed and we moved on. Anyway, I ended up working for him, and it ended up being a really great (if somewhat unorthodox) work environment. So maybe sometimes a terrible question does not indicate a terrible employer?

  10. The most awkward questions had to do with what I thought about gay marriage..and they were made more awkward by the fact that the search committee didn't ask them in our f2f time, but called me the next day and said, "oh, we forgot to ask you...."

    I answered honestly, along the lines of "I'm in favor of same-sex marriage but I'm also bound by my bishop and the canons of the church." And that seemed okay with them.

    In retrospect, I guess I'm glad I met the search committee first, because if they had asked me that question before I met them, it likely would've been a deal breaker for ME. But really, it was a bad question, badly done. By a search committee that didn't entirely have its act together.

  11. The worst question was one my husband [professional role, not church employed] was asked,. About 25 years ago, in our mid 20s, my husband applied for a job a days drive from where we were living. After he was interviewed, we were taken to be shown the (small) town, then we both were invited back to the office. And I was asked how I felt about moving, and did I think I would be willing to stay in a place like this? These days I may not have kept as quiet!

    Mompriest, at my first interview when I was about to finish college, the second question was “who is Jesus Christ for you?” . I gave a short answer, and was trying to think of how to explain, and they said no, that’s enough. I realised that the only time I had been asked anything like this was in theology class, and 3,000 words was expected. Here they were happy with a sentence. Whew! I didn’t have to explain how the trinity worked! And they called me.

    Can’t think of a best question, maybe the one above because it made me realise this was not like a college paper!,

    Thanks for the topic , it prompted me to look over the e-mail exchange during the conversation process between 2 meetings with the call committee.

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  13. I'm not a clergyperson, but I'll nonethless nominate my own personal Worst Interview Question Ever: Many years ago I was sitting in the interviewer's office, smartly dressed and shiny-faced and very much wanting the position in question. The interviewer said, "This is a very impressive resume you sent me." I was thrilled, especially since I was a fairly recent college graduate with little paid professional experience.

    "Where did you get this printed? They did a great job." This interview isn't going exactly as I'd planned, I thought.

    "Do you happen to have their number?"

    That was pretty much the rest of the interview.

  14. This happened during the committee portion of the interview - I had already been driven around, etc., and seen the shiny new church building and the wonderful lighting system.

    In my paperwork I had mentioned that I like to move around when I preach, stand in the aisle at times, do dramas, etc.

    the Question; "How are you going to preach in the aisle when the spotlight's on the pulpit?" Answer: "you are not going to use the spotlight."

    yeah, it was time to get my coat.

  15. I was asked to sit in while they asked my husband (the pastor) some questions and they watched my face as they asked him questions and then asked if I would sing in the choir. Weird. So many resaons we weren't called there!...but it was near my mom's so we were hopeful up until then.


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