Contacting References

Adapted from the Search Committee Manual of the Christian Church in Indiana.

Once the committee has held an initial interview with short list candidates, the chair should contact each person with which you had an initial interview and indicate next steps. If you have eliminated them from further consideration, wish them well and thank them for their time. If you wish to move forward with a candidate, indicate to them that you will now be contacting their references. As you do so, ask them at the same time, to provide you with additional materials to help the committee get to know them and their ministry. Invite them to send anything they would like to share to further introduce themselves. Ask them in particular to send samples of their sermons—manuscripts, links to online sermons, or video tapes/DVD’s.

Reference Calls

There are four references for each candidate—one Regional staff person and three others. Generally the references will include at least one person who has been a parishioner of the pastor. The Chair should assign committee members to call each reference. Some sample questions for reference calls are shown below. In general you want to ask the individual “How do you know this minister? In what context have you observed them?” Describe your church and ask, “How would you imagine them serving in this setting?” Also ask about strengths, weaknesses, and the effectiveness of their preaching, their pastoral care, and their administrative and leadership gifts.

Ask each reference specific questions. Do not ask general questions like “tell me about this person.” You might ask the reference to clarify or expand on comments they made in their written reference. Plan ahead of the call what questions you will ask. Each committee member should take notes on their phone calls in order to report on the conversation to the committee.

You should not contact the candidate’s congregation or any other person without the permission of the candidate. This protects the confidentiality of the candidate’s relocation interest. If you believe you need to speak to additional persons you may ask the candidate to supply additional persons who can serve as a reference.

Questions for References

  • CANDIDATE KNOWLEDGE: How do you know this person?
  • SERMONS: How would you describe this person’s preaching?
  • INVOLVEMENT AND SUPPORT: How does this person support and encourage the various ministries of the church?
  • COMMUNICATION: Would you describe this person as an effective communicator? Do you think they communicate better in writing or in person? Are their communications clear?
  • PASTORAL CARE: Is this person approachable? Do they listen well?
  • ADMINISTRATION: How does this person work with other leaders in the church? Tell me about a time this person addressed conflict. How well does this person equip others to serve?