7 Suggestions When Interviewing for a Church Staff Position

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I serve on the board of a local youth leadership program. These students are the top of their class, so the entry is competitive. Part of qualifying process is an interview with board members — most who are seasoned business and community leaders. I am always reminded in the process how interviewing, as critical as it is to acquiring a position, is not something everyone knows how to do — regardless of their other accomplishments.

I’ve found that to be true in the church also. And, in business when I was in that world. I have hired dozens, maybe hundreds of people in my career — which means I’ve interviewed lots of people. Some people do better at interviewing than others.

I decided to offer some advice from the hiring side of the table. Since my blog is read mostly by church leaders, I am speaking primarily from that perspective.

Here are 7 suggestions for interviewing for a church staff position:

Know the church. Do as much research as you can about the church, it’s history and its culture. Obviously, read all you can online. Ask who will be in the interview and what role they have in the church. Google can be your friend in researching these people. Find out if you have any connections in the church. (LinkedIn can be a great source as it shows you connections to your connections.)

Be honest. This is critical. They need to know you and you need to know them — as openly as possible in a formal setting like this. The worst thing for you personally would be to land a job where you would be miserable — or make them miserable. Plus, in my experience, the more honest and transparent you are — even about your weaknesses or past failures — the more attractive you will be as a candidate — if you’re a fit for the role.

Be upbeat. I’ve learned this is especially difficult if you are nervous — or, like me — an introvert. The main concern in adding staff at most churches is that the person be a good fit for the church and current team. Show you’re easy to get along with, fun and likable. Have a firm handshake. Look people in the eye. But, balance this with also attempting to be yourself. It’s obvious if you’re trying too hard. Especially on a first interview, the key should be to connect with those in your interview.

Be humble. If you’ve had past success, don’t take all the credit. Share the victories with others, knowing that most likely you couldn’t have succeeded without them. It’s a much more appealing approach. Use the word “we” more than “me” or “I”. While you need to demonstrate your ability to perform, keep in mind arrogance is never an attractive quality in a team member. 

Appear competent without appearing controlling. There is a huge difference between being able to lead with confidence and being a bullying leader. Churches are places where people need to be empowered. Your goal should be to demonstrate a care and love for people (which should be genuine), while assuring you have the tenacity and courage to lead boldly. That’s a delicate balance every church needs.

Be forward thinking but celebratory of history – Most churches, even after a difficult period, continue to remain proud of their heritage. (This is where researching the church as much as you can helps.) The worst thing you can do is to bash the church or it’s culture. They may welcome your input to change, but you won’t endear them to you if you make them defensive about their history. Let them know you are willing to build on their past, but also willing to help them go wherever God leads in the future.

Pray – It should go without saying, but pray before and after the interview and ask others to pray with you. (Although as I’ve seen people do, I wouldn’t necessarily post this on Facebook.) In the end, you want this to be a God-thing — not a man-made thing. You don’t want to take the position if it’s not of God. I believe God often gives tremendous latitude and freedom in choosing our place of service, and we should represent Him with our best appearance, but in the end, we want to be in the center of His will.

What tips would you offer to those interviewing at another church or ministry?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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15 thoughts on “7 Suggestions When Interviewing for a Church Staff Position

  1. This is great! I just was hired as a Student Minister at a church in northern Kentucky. I even contemplated writing an article like this–now, I don't have to! Thanks for writing this.

  2. Tremendous things here. I am very happy to see your article.

    Thanks a lot and I am having a look ahead to touch you.

    Will you please drop me a mail?

  3. In India, the churches generally look for committedness from the candidates over all other qualities. Competencies and professionalism get a backseat indeed. Church hiring is not so organized as it is in US.

    • Interesting. Thank you for sharing that. Certainly committedness…to a vision…to the cause of Christ…to be a servant…very important for a church staff member…or believer.

  4. Thoughts, go to these churches as a punter and see if you 'fit in'. IMHO starting as a volunteer or paid worker could mean that it is merely a job or ahem 'ministry'. This is a dig at religious speak not you.

  5. Ron, great post and suggestions. I'm in a situation where I'm trying to get the church to consider hiring me. I've been doing full-time ministry for them the past year (unpaid), but am trying to move it toward a staff position, which is the reigning model at my large church. I'd also be interested in hearing how to present myself, not at a formal interview, but at the informational level and at the "here's how I can be a part of your church's ministry" level. Thanks!

    • That's a great idea for a post also. Let me consider my answer. Short answer is it's relationally-driven in most cases, but those cases can be abused also, where the best qualified is overlooked for someone with a closer relationship. Let me think about this

  6. Ron, How about some thoughts on the other side of things. Hiring the right person seems to be a harder task than ever. Would love to hear your thoughts about the hiring process.