Hiring a Minister: Five Suggestions for Ministers
In my previous article, I shared five suggestions for churches hiring a minister. In this article, I will share five suggestions to ministers who are interviewing for a ministry position. Over the years I have accumulated advice from mentors and my own experience on both sides of this vital process.
Five Suggestions for Ministers:
During your interview, you are a minister to that congregation. Whenever I have spoken to a search committee or preached a sermon during an interview weekend, I have kept in mind that for the duration of that visit I am called to be a minister to that group of God’s children. This transcends the decision about employment. At the end of the interview, we may all decide that it we are not a good fit with one another or that someone else is a better fit for the role. Yet, I still have the responsibility to preach a sermon that is beneficial to the congregation. The conversations during the interview should help the church develop into better disciples. Some of my best interview experiences were for jobs I did not get. In one case I was blessed to know that my conversations helped a congregation know exactly who they did need to hire. I voiced my support for that decision despite the fact that, by worldly definitions, I lost the competition.
Keep a kingdom perspective. This is how we avoid the bitterness and resentment of "competition." If we attach our self-worth to being hired by a “popular and influential” church, then we will be disappointed whether we get the job or not. Not only is this the wrong way to seek affirmation, it judges a church on false criteria that has nothing to do with the reality of the minister-church relationship. A true kingdom perspective finds contentment in serving Christ alongside other believers and in a fellowship of multiple congregations that reflect various gifts and temperaments. Remember also that churches are people, not institutions. The people on the search committee talk to other people they know in other churches. An interview at one congregation may be the path by which you are introduced to another congregation. Keep that in mind.
Do not be anxious. This is not the same as being nervous. Nervousness can be expected in some situations, especially if this is your first time to interview. Do your best to manage that, but nervousness is not what I mean by being anxious. Anxiety over getting a particular job is off-putting and faithless. If you find that you are often setting yourself up for disappointment by telling yourself that you absolutely must get a particular job, then you end up broadcasting a message to a search team (and just about everyone else) that they must affirm you and validate your plans for the future. This attitude is faithless because we demonstrate that we do not expect God to have a hand in forming communities and we disregard his role in our calling.
Do your homework and be prepared to discuss both principles and practice in ministry. Some of the questions you will be asked in an interview will examine your general principles and theology of ministry. But at some point those principles need some “landing gear” to get them out of the air and on the ground. Research the church and its community. Imagine what your work might look like with a particular ministry and a particular church. Can you articulate how you would do your work at that place? If the ministry demands a strategy for growth, development, or leadership, be prepared to describe how you would begin. You can acknowledge the Holy Spirit’s primacy and involvement in your ministry and still make it concrete. For instance, do you believe that a good strategy upon employment would be a season of prayer? Then share that as both a principle and practice. Be prepared to discuss the WHY and the HOW of ministry.
Document the terms of employment. I made a similar suggestion to churches in the previous article. If they do not offer a memorandum of understanding, then ask for one or put the terms in writing and ask them to review your understanding. If they are reluctant to commit to documentation, you may want to reconsider the offer. We do not live by the letter of the law, but written agreements will help everyone clarify expectations. Additionally, I encourage ministers and their families to work on their budgets and know what benefits and compensation you need. If financial planning or discussions about compensation are difficult or awkward for you, then seek help from reliable advisors. It may seem pious to say that earthly matters do not concern you, but it might be more spiritual and considerate to help the hiring committee by being prepared. After all, this is a job interview.