Exit Interviews

An “Exit Interview” can be a useful tool in the process of a pastoral transition, both for the pastor and the congregation.

Objectives of an Exit Interview
  • To provide closure both for the pastor and for the S/PPRC.
  • To help both pastor and congregation understand what has happened.
  • To help each understand how each has contributed to the dynamics present.
  • To assist a congregation to see possible ways to deal differently with a new pastor. To assist a pastor to see possible ways to deal differently with a new congregation.
Some things to remember:
  • An exit interview is not intended to be a gripe session!
  • An exit interview helps make real the fact that a change will be taking place.
  • Open, non-defensive exchanges around agreed upon topics can lead to new insights for both pastor and lay people.
Who might participate?
  • The Staff/Pastor Parish Relations Committee.
  • A representative cross section of members of the church and community. Individual interviews.
  • Individual interviews with a third party observer.
Barriers to the usefulness of an “Exit Interview”
  1. Conflicted situations
  2. Lack of trust
  3. Represents a radically different style of relating.
How might the interview proceed?
  • Develop agreement on participants, topics and setting for the interview.
  • Develop an understanding of how this information will be used, and by whom.
  • If no interview is scheduled, state as clearly as possible the reasons for not having an “Exit Interview.

Sample topics for discussion during an “Exit Interview”

1. The experience of ministry.

Pastor: This is how it has been for me in ministry here.

Laity: This is how it has been for me/us in ministry while you were here with us.

2. Hopes and dreams

Pastor: I had hoped…. and….

Laity: I/We had hoped…. and….

3. Efforts made

Pastor: I attempted to…. And this, I thought, worked…. But this didn’t.

Laity: My/Our experiences of these actions were….

4. Choices made

Pastor: I chose, or did not choose to….

Laity: I/We saw these choices as….

5. Feelings experienced

Pastor: There have been times when I felt….

Laity: There have been times when I/we felt…. 6. What still needs to be done?


Image Credit: Some rights reserved by Ben McLeod, some modifications made.

Adapted By Gail Grossman from Pastoral Transitions, by Bud Phillips.