Q. What is most people’s #1 fear?
Q. What is traditionally involved in professing your faith in the CRC?
Q. Is that a problem?
Yes, it is.
Mark Twain once said, “There are only two types of speakers in the world: the nervous and the liars.” He was right. For most people in your congregation, the idea of being interviewed by the church council is somewhere on the spectrum between anxiety-producing and utterly terrifying. Some fear this idea so much that they they may never profess their faith.
That, friends, is not how it’s supposed to be. But there are ways to minimize the fear factor in the council interview. (Interview—now there’s another anxiety-producing word. You may want to consider calling this conversation something else entirely, but for convenience we’ll use that word.) Here are a few ways to make the council interview a more joyful, life-giving process for all involved.
Use your youth group as a focus group
Pastors should consider meeting each year with the youth group, encouraging teens to take this step and asking them what would make the council interview a less daunting prospect for them. Brainstorm about creative ways to give one’s testimony (in writing, via video, through artwork, etc.)
Consider interview group size
Think about forming a small interview team--perhaps the pastor and an elder or two--who will report back to the full council. If the interviewee is a teen, consider inviting the youth leader to participate too. The opportunity to hear the testimonies of youth group participants will deeply bless him or her.
Meet in an environment the interviewee is familiar with, such as the youth group room or the family’s living room. Provide refreshments to give you all something to do with your hands and lessen any tension. Even consider sending a handwritten note to the interviewee a week prior, letting him or her know that you’re looking forward to the meeting with joy.
Prep the interviewers
Pose this question to the council or to the people who will conduct the interview: “What kinds of questions might Jesus ask if he were interviewing someone with us?” Choose leading questions that will encourage the interviewee to share his or her faith story. Questions might include:
- How do you know that God is real?
- Who was or is one of the most influential people in your faith life? Why?
- What does your baptism mean to you?
- What does participating in the Lord’s Supper mean to you?
- Tell about a “turning point” in your life and how God was involved.
If the interviewee is a person with an intellectual disability such as Down Syndrome or autism, check out the very helpful book Expressing Faith in Jesus: Church Membership for People with Intellectual Disabilities for tips on accommodating interview questions to their abilities.
Acknowledge the fear
Ask interviewees if they have fears about the process. Tell them exactly what to expect: where and when you’ll meet, who will meet with them, what questions they will ask. If possible, provide a copy of the questions they will be asked so they are able to prepare confidently and well.
Make the interview a two-way street
The purpose of this gathering is to hear what has brought the interviewee to this place of faith. Do everything you can to avoid an atmosphere of interrogation. The council interview can also be a wonderful time to share faith stories together. For example, if you ask the interviewee the question “How do you know God is real?” ask the members of the council or interview team to share their answers too. It will be an unforgettable moment for all present.
Look to the future
Profession of faith is not the final destination in our walk with Christ. Ask interviewees how the congregation can continue to support them going forward, and encourage them to participate in age- and ability-appropriate opportunities for continued growth.
Note: Faith Formation Ministries is hard at work on an online toolkit that will include many more profession of faith resources. If you have ideas or comments on profession of faith in the CRC, I invite you to share them in the comments below or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.