September 1, 1999. That was my official start date in ministry at Porter Free Will Baptist Church. I had interviewed with Pastor Forrest Chamberlin and the deacon board for the position of associate pastor a few weeks before. Pastor Chamberlin was the chairman of the ordaining council when I was ordained seventeen years prior, and had enjoyed a forty-three-year tenure at Porter. At that time, he was seventy-seven years old, and felt the time was appropriate for bringing in a “second man.” What keen insight he had, because fourteen months later health issues would dictate that he step away from active ministry. It was at that point that he and I would trade roles.
I still remember the initial interview with the board; it was late July. I had just taken the youth group from the church where I had been serving to the National Youth Conference in Atlanta, GA. Pastor Chamberlin had stopped by my place of secular employment in June, prior to the National. He had asked me to prayerfully consider coming to Porter as his associate. He agreed to give me until after the National to see some ministry projects through where I was then serving. We returned home from Atlanta on a Thursday, and over the weekend I was meeting with the leadership of the church. There were some obvious questions that would be asked of me, and I of them.
Having known Pastor Chamberlin, and having preached in that church numerous times, I had a good understanding of who they were, and how they functioned. Some of the questions below are questions that I had asked in that interview. Some of the questions below would have been helpful had I not had that initial understanding.
* Depending on individual circumstances, I am sure there are many other questions that you might want to ask. The key is, don’t be afraid to ask. This is the time to establish the best understanding of what expectations are.
Pursuing God’s plan in regard to a place of ministry can be overwhelming. You may have someone walk into your place of employment, or you just might receive a phone call from five states away. Inevitably, if the Lord is leading your heart toward serving a church, you need some face-to-face time with that church family. They need to have an opportunity to get to know a little about you, and you them. I would recommend that you offer to make the trip for a visit (many churches offer to pay for you to come for such a visit). It may be that you arrive on Friday, and stay through Monday morning. This would allow you to meet with the leadership (Friday evening, or Saturday morning). You would have Saturday to see the community (housing, schools, etc.). You would have opportunity to preach both services on Sunday, with (hopefully) an opportunity to meet the people personally in an informal setting like a meal. While a longer visit would be preferred, at least you would have the opportunity to establish a relationship with the folks you may end up serving for many years to come.