How to Answer a Question

As I mentioned below I was at an interviewing weekend at a church recently.  After my sermon the floor was opened up for questions directed at me (there were about 350 people there).  I was quite surprised at the range of topics.  Now bear in mind I do not have a traditional church or education background for this particular church so I suspect at least a few individuals felt some red flags go up over my resume.  One question was whether I held to the reformed doctrine of predestination (the right answer here is no).  Another question was whether I took a literalistic reading of the Bible.  There were of course other questions.  Some had to do with my background and intention for this position.  After a day or two of reflecting on this part of the weekend I began to feel how problematic this was.  In almost all cases I think I knew what they were really asking but the questions themselves placed unnecessary parameters on how the question could be answered.  Ultimately the questions were of a yes/no nature.  And perhaps I should have simply answered them as such.  Do you hold to the doctrine of predestination . . . no.  This, I suspect, would not have been well received and so I tried to build context around my response framing out why my yes or no could be intelligible for my particular situation.  But this was framing from nowhere as I did not know what was really being sought after.

In the end this was a highly unsatisfying time.  I think for these formats to have any validity congregations must learn the basic posture of invitation as opposed to inquisition.  Share with us . . . Describe for me . . . As it stood this environment seemed to enforce the sort of subtle and indirect communication that can leave people inside and outside of churches wondering whether they are in fact inside or outside (or perhaps upside down).

Being clear in communication does not mean being blunt it means being clear first of all with yourself.  Why are you asking this, have you expressed this motivation in the question?  Do you already have a pre-determined answer you are looking for?  Does this question aim at helping you to know and understand the person you am talking with better?  Does this question place inappropriate parameters on how the person is able to respond?

I don’t actually mind being in the hot seat I just find that in situations where someone’s potential livelihood is at stake care should be taken educating a group towards an appropriate method of inquiry (well, appropriate by my standards).

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