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20 questions to see if your priest is any good

20 questions to see if your priest is any good

Derek Penwell on [D]mergent lists 20 questions you might ask of your priest (he uses “minister” for this article):

I would like to begin by suggesting that the purpose of ministry in the church is to equip followers of Jesus for the reign of God. Therefore, the focus of ministry ought rightly to be on those areas that prepare people to be more mature followers of Jesus. That is to say, not all ministerial activities are created equal—which, of course, is as true for ministers as for ministry programming in the church.

And so, I’ve identified those areas that, I would argue (yes, as in, “argue”), help give us the fullest picture of what good ministry looks like as it seeks to accomplish its purposes. What follows is a series of questions that, I hope, will help to clarify how ministry might more effectively be evaluated.

Areas covered by questions:

The Minister as Example

If ministry involves helping to lead others to a more mature expression of faith, the most crucial area of ministerial expertise and performance ought to be that of model. In other words, ministers ought to be evaluated first and foremost by whether they actually seek to live like Jesus said to live.

The Minister as Theologian

So, living like a grownup follower of Jesus ought to be the broadest context in which ministerial evaluation takes place.

The Minister as Leader

Understanding that the church is a complex system, leadership by the minister should not be confused with bureaucratic administration.

The Minister as Pastor

In the process of equipping followers of Jesus for the reign of God, the minister is necessarily called upon to embody the love present in the gospel to people—within the congregation and without. Perhaps, just as importantly, the minister is responsible for helping to teach the congregation how it is called upon to embody that love.

What do you think?


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Eric Bonetti

@Nrknamm: Possibly, we are talking about diction, but based on my understanding of your comment, I do not agree with you. Vestries set policy, staff handles implementation. In that respect, vestries are like well-run non-profit boards.

In cases in which a parish has ample resources to allow for a parish administrator, those tasks should reside with him or her. In parishes that have no paid staff other than clergy, those tasks reside with the priest, possibly assisted by vestry members and other volunteers.

There is an additional wrinkle, which is that leadership should not be solely the province of the priest. Good vestries care for parishioners, clergy and staff, with the wardens having particular obligations in that space. In other words, vestries also are all about people. Reducing the role of the vestry to that of parish supply corps is a serious mistake and subverts the role of vestry, which per our canons holds ultimate responsibility for the parish, aka leadership.


leadership by the minister should not be confused with bureaucratic administration.

By definition leadership is about people and everything else is things, i.e. logistics. The BAC/Vestry and the committees should handle the logistics leaving the priest to leadership.

[nrknamm: please sign your name when you comment – thanks, editor]

Melissa Holloway

We are Episcopalian. So please let us include the ability to conduct a Eucharist with an aesthetic that surpasses, say for example, your neighbor’s cousin’s child’s violin concert.

And to say all they say in that Eucharist with authenticity.

Eric Bonetti

@Brian: Initially, I would deal directly with her, using a lot of “I statements.” “I am uncomfortable when you raise your voice,” or “I feel like you belitte me,” followed by an example. It may also be good to go in with a witness, and to take notes after your conversation.

If that doesn’t do the trick, next stop is your wardens.

If they can’t help, yes, it’s time to get help from your bishop.

Good luck, Brian

Rod Gillis

As I read through the actual full length article, and as I did thought about actual priests I know and their contexts, I realized I found the article rather jejune and middle class.

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