Finding a Job in Ministry
Three questions you should have answers for
There’s a good chance that, if you’re seeking out a career in ministry (or a career in most any field, for that matter), that one day you’ll find yourself without a job – and, when that happens, I want you to find this post and read it again. In fact, there’s a chance that you’re reading this post because you’re out of a job and a friend shared the link with you – if that’s the case, take notes… your friend is trying to help you out.
I’ve never known so many friends in ministry without a job. Off the top of my head, I can think of 6 people who I would consider friends – 3 of whom are close enough family friends that they’ve shared a meal at my home – who are actively looking to be hired on a church staff. Now, out of that list, I think that some of them are doing everything they can to stay active in the pursuit of finding their next call in ministry. There are others, and I’m afraid that they’re in the majority when it comes to the masses, who aren’t helping themselves out with the choices they’re making while looking for their next ministry position.
So, today, I want to ask three questions to those who are looking for a new job and what answers I’d be looking for if I were trying to hire you.
- Why did you leave your last ministry position?
- Where are you currently going to church and where in the Church are you serving?
- When was the last time you did what you want me to pay you to do?
This is only meant to help – I promise.
Why did you leave your last ministry position?
For those of us who’ve worked at multiple churches, we know the heartache that can happen during transitions. Rarely, if ever, do people leave ministry roles in a way that would allow them to return again as a staff member or as a member of the congregation. In fact, one of the few people I can think of off the top of my head who has navigated that transition well is the former student minister at my current church. She is now on staff at a local seminary and worships on Sundays at our church – where she was once on staff for somewhere around 5 years. She’s a rare exception because of how great of a person she is. Most of us didn’t transition as well – and that’s an okay thing to admit.
With that said, the way you answer this question will speak volumes about your character. If, in the first 2 sentences of your answer, you throw your former senior pastor under the bus – I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t hire you. At times, you’ll disagree with your future senior leadership team and they need to know that you’ll have their back at the end of the day. Honesty is important when answering this question, but you want to make sure that you speak well of your former church. There are often a lot of hurt feelings when it comes to ministry transition. It’s okay to talk about them – just don’t go there in the first two sentences of your answer.
Where are you currently going to church and where are you serving?
I might be the only surprised one in the room on this one (and that’s okay), but I’m shocked at how many people looking for a paid position in ministry aren’t currently a part of a church body. And, when I say a part of, I mean in attendance and service within the church.
It. Blows. My. Mind.
I’m not sure why I’d hire someone to work on a church staff who thinks it’s okay to not belong to a local church body. The best excuse I had heard, up until about a year ago, was that someone looking to go on staff at a future church didn’t want to create strong bonds at a church that wouldn’t be their final stop along the way. However, during the last year, I had someone contact me during a ministry transition they were going through and they asked if they could serve at and attend our church in the meantime. This person, and their spouse, have been worshipping with us for months and are becoming actively involved in the life of the church. Will it make their transition away from us harder? Sure. Does it speak volumes to their conviction that belonging to a local church body is a big deal? Absolutely. Also, they can always point back to the fact that they told us they wouldn’t be around forever – they’ve been honest from the beginning and I love that about them.
If you can come up with a good reason to not be involved in a local church while searching for a new ministry position, that’s what the comment section is for. Go for it. Maybe you’ll say something I haven’t heard before – it’s totally possible.
When was the last time you did what you want me to pay you to do?
So, you want to be a youth pastor? When was the last time you taught at a youth group? Or… you want to work in children’s ministry? Are you currently working with Elementary-aged kids or Preschoolers? These are important questions to have answers for because a good church will ask you and you should be ready to talk about it.
We’re currently in a job market where there are far more qualified people looking for ministry positions than churches looking to hire. There are better resumes out there than yours. The way you answer this question may be what makes you stand out in an interview process. Also – are you willing to not do what you feel called to do for months, maybe even a year, just because nobody is willing to pay you for it? I want you to consider what that looks like to a future employer. There are days when ministry is exhausting – if the only thing keeping you going is the promise of a paycheck, something is broken. Learning to serve in the areas you are gifted in, without pay, will make you better at what you do.
Why should you share this post?
I know, this isn’t one of the three interview questions. I totally get that. However, there’s a good chance that you know someone who is trying to get hired at a church and they’ve never thought of how they’d answer these questions. I don’t want you to have to be the bad guy who asks the hard questions – let me do that. You can be there to ask them what they thought of the questions and ask how they might answer them. But, the only way you get to be the good guy is if you share this post and then talk in your circles about what your gut reactions are.