It is often a watershed event in the life of a ministry or church when an important member leaves. The more you understand the circumstances behind this departure, the easier it will be to make necessary adjustments to improve your organization. Whether the minister retires, resigns to take another position or leaves for some other reason, it will provide your organization with useful information if you can arrange an exit interview before you begin to look for a replacement.
Celebrate the accomplishments of your departing minister with the rest of your ministry, if appropriate. Hold a goodbye dinner and show a video presentation for all involved in the ministry to enjoy.
Elect and involve your search committee in crafting questions to ask of your departing minister that will help the committee find a suitable replacement. Write out your questions in case your departing minister would prefer to complete the interview on paper instead of in person.
Schedule your interview with the departing minister, allowing enough time for fellowship and for a serious examination in the interview. Your interview could be held in your church or over a nice dinner in a local restaurant.
Conducting the Interview
Start your interview with prayer. Both you and the departing minister need to be in the right spiritual mindset to work through the good areas of your ministry and those in need of improvement.
Ask the departing member for specific things that the ministry is doing correctly. Ask about the high points of the ministry and why the minister thinks so.
Request that your interviewee thoroughly explain areas that could be improved and why. Ask open-ended questions like "What have you learned about ministry in your time in this position?" to further flesh out the topic.
Inquire about your minister's opinion of the strengths and weaknesses of his congregation. This information could be useful to the next minister in formulating his ministry plan.
Ask about the minister's expectations for the future of your ministry. For example, you might ask, "Where do you see our ministry going in the next five or 10 years?" You might also ask, "What should we look for in a future minister?" to assist the search committee in finding a replacement.
Even if your minister left under a negative circumstance, request an exit interview. You never know when you might get valuable insights into your church or ministry. Meet after the interview to review the data and formulate changes that could be made quickly and over time.
Avoid gossip by keeping the results of the interview private. This is not only the right thing to do, it could be wise should conflict arise from the departure.
- FBC Bedford: Calling an American Baptist Minister
- The Penn Northeast Conference of the United Church of Christ: The Exit Interview
- Ministry Support and Development: Potential Exit Interview Questions by Church to Departing Pastor
- Eldersinstitute.ca: Elders’ Toolbox
- Newark Presbytery: Pastor Exit Interview
- Churchleaders.com: Find out Why People Leave Your Church: 8 Tips for Exit Interviews