Assessment Questions for New Elder Candidates
What kinds of questions do you ask to assess the readiness of a prospective elder?
At my former church—an international congregation in the Middle East—my fellow pastors and I wrestled to develop an examination tool for elder nominees. Our church had just adopted an elder model, so we didn’t have history to draw upon. And given our international context, we couldn’t assume a baseline knowledge or common categories that we might assume in, say, a typical American church.
Below are the specific questions we asked, grouped into categories. We typically sent these questions out ahead of time for elder nominees to answer, then followed up with an interview by a few elders, and then before the whole elder team.
These questions explored the nominee’s experience of saving faith and the Christian life.
1. Share your testimony of repentance and faith in Jesus. Tell us briefly when you trusted Christ as Savior and the circumstances surrounding your commitment to Christ.
2. Have you been baptized? What do you believe concerning baptism? (Note: our church had also recently required baptism for membership, so there could have been unbaptized members!)
3. Describe the condition, status, or details of your current relationship with Christ.
An elders must be able to teach (1 Tim. 3:2) and hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:9). We also wanted to know where an elder candidate stood on certain secondary matters that were significant issues for our church. So we asked:
1. What is the gospel?
2. Are you in full agreement with our statement of faith?
3. What are some theological issues that you consider important or that you want to see emphasized more at our church?
4. What is the role of women in the church? What are your views on manhood and womanhood?
5. What do you believe concerning the sovereignty of God, particularly God’s sovereignty over salvation?
6. What is your view of spiritual gifts, specifically speaking in tongues and prophecy?
7. What is the role of spiritual “leadings” in the Christian life? How do we make decisions?
We particularly wanted to understand how an elder nominee thought about the local congregation. This often revealed the man’s philosophy of ministry.
1. Do you believe there is a difference between a pastor and an elder? And if so, what are the differences?
2. What do you believe about church membership? Why is membership in a local church important? If you were an elder, what difference would that make to your relationships with church members versus non-members?
3. What is the relationship between baptism and membership? Are you comfortable with the requirement of baptism for membership in the local church?
4. What are your beliefs with regard to church discipline? Relate any personal experience. How would you handle a case of scandal or immorality by a church member?
5. Many children who appear to be converted at an early age show no evidence of knowing Christ later. How do you handle children when they come to you for counsel concerning conversion? What is your advice to parents?
6. What do you think our church most needs to focus on right now? What weaknesses do we have as a church? How do we need to grow?
These questions explore the candidates’ self-assessment of elder readiness. We would, of course, need to corroborate such assessments through input from others in the congregation.
1. How or why do you think God is leading you to accept this nomination? Why do you desire to be an elder?
2. Read 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Based on your self-assessment, how do you believe you measure up to these qualifications?
3. In what ways have you served this church or previous churches?
4. Elders must be able to teach (1 Tim. 3:2). Do you feel equipped to exercise a teaching ministry in the church? If not, how are you seeking to equip yourself?
5. Elders are called to shepherd the body of Christ (1 Pet. 5:2). Who are you currently shepherding or discipling, and in what ways?
6. Give an example of a time you had to confront or correct someone in a local church. How did you go about it? Is this something you are willing to do?
Technically these questions are part of the “qualifications” category above. However, we wanted to drill down into marriage and family issues because of the critical role the family plays as a proving ground for caring for Christ’s bride and managing God’s household.
1. How would you describe the quality of your marriage?
2. How would your wife and children describe your leadership in the home?
3. What encouragements or concerns would your wife have about you serving as an elder?
4. Have you ever been divorced?
5. Have you looked at any pornographic images the last year on your computer, TV, a magazine or otherwise? What are ways that you are actively seeking to guard your heart against lust?
6. Do you (or have you ever) hit or physically coerced your wife? If so, under what circumstances?
7. How are your household finances? Do you carry personal debt?
For more on elder candidates, read: How to Examine Qualifications in Elder Candidates