Monday, June 23, 2008

Looking for a job

I have been in transition since January. The church I attempted to plant didn't take root. My future in ministry has been in limbo for about 6 months. It wasn't that I was going to quit doing ministry as much as what kind of ministry I was going to do. After a long process of thinking, praying, talking to people, sending out resumes, and interviewing it looks like I am circling for a landing. I am going to stay (or go back into) student ministries. This blog entry is really an attempt to give some tips to guys who may be looking for a ministry position. If you are thinking about changing your position in ministry or simply looking to get out of the one you are in, this may be helpful.

I didn't leave the church plant, we closed. That left me without a job. Still I have left ministries in the past and there are several good reasons to leave. Most of this entry will focus on the new position, but I thought I would go over a few good reasons to leave a ministry:
  • Money
    • I know some of you are thinking, "what, ministry isn't about the money!!" You are right. I wish I was independently wealthy and that I could do full time ministry for free. I am not and I can't. I need to take care of my family in a responsible way.
    • That said, if you are in a good situation, give your current ministry every opportunity to pay you a reasonable wage.
  • Leadership
    • There is no one rule in this regard, but it is important for the leadership to at least be functional.
    • Sometimes perseverance pays off in these situations. Other times it just makes things worse. Use wisdom and prayer here.
    • Leadership change
      • When leadership changes (senior pastor leaves and a new one comes) this may be the time to move on. Again use wisdom here.
If the time to move on has come let me make a couple of suggestions regarding your resume:
  • Get Help
    • You are not a wiener if you get help with your resume. I went back to the career services department of my alma mater and sat down with someone before I even started putting my resume together. It was extremely helpful. Have the look at it and rip it apart. This is not taking God out of the equation.
  • Be Honest
    • You want to present your good side as much as possible, but you don't want to create false expectations.
  • Include personal information
    • This is not necessary or even good in the business world, but in the ministry world things like family are important.
  • Cover Letter
    • My cover letter morphed as time went on. At first it was really positive and sounded great (If it was in the business world). As time went on I was not happy with the response I was getting, so I began (with the help of some objective eyes) to change things. When I started to talk about failures (in a general sense) and the fact that I have learned and changes for the positive as a result of those failures I started to get a much better response. To be honest this approach is more reflective of my personality anyway.
  • Don't send your resume to everyone!!! I was selective when it came to sending out my resume. I would check out the web site of the church, listen to sermons if they were available, and I would definitely Google them. I would sometimes check out the town or city and get an idea of what the cost of living was before I sent the resume out.
When it comes time for the interview, make sure you are prepared to ask some questions of them as well. The idea is to find a good fit. You might be a rock star, but if you end up with a country band it wont matter, you need a rock band. Be yourself. When you notice differences that might be a problem don't conceal them, point them out. Where there seems to be agreement point that out as well. Whenever possible give examples. Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know" or "I haven't thought about that." If you try to fake an answer they will probably see through that. It is better to be thought teachable than to be thought of as a know it all. Last, learn for every interview. You will probably be asked the same kind of questions over and over again. If you don't think you did very well on a question develop an answer for the next interview.

There will come a time when you will be turned away. Understand, this may not be something negative about you as much as it is a chemistry thing. I was interviewed for a student ministry position at a large church (600) that had a beautiful youth center. The interview went well, but they were only going to bring back two guys for a second interview. As it turned out I was third on the list. They started with well over 50 resumes and I ended up third, that ain't bad. There have been many churches that didn't even respond to my resume. It looks like I will be headed to a larger church (1100) who had well over 120 resumes turned in. Being turned away may mean you weren't qualified, but it might also mean it simply wasn't a good fit. There are times when you may be able to find a position for which you are not qualified because the chemistry is good. Be patient.

Make sure you are debriefing after interviews or visits. Be honest with yourself. I interviewed with another church that was about 200. I had a good time at the interview, I enjoyed the people and thought I could work well with the pastor. In the end I moved on partially because of another opportunity and partially because I was not sure if I would be a good fit. I think my time there might have been short. I don't think I would be satisfied long term in that community. It would not be fair to them for me to take that kind of job. I had one church I interviewed over the phone with three times. It wasn't until the last interview that we both realized things were not going to work out. It is about fit!!!

There are some sites I used to find postings. I used sites I had access to for free, because I am cheap:
  • (need user name and password)
Over the next year I will be making some entries about starting in a new ministry.