When I was serving at Pepperdine, we would interview
dozens of college students for about 10 intern slots in the Campus Ministry
office. Each one would be interviewed in exactly the same way. They would
generally be asked the same questions, and frankly, would often give exactly
the same answers. Many of them were born and raised in the church, and had
similar spiritual “tenures.” Yet, once they began to serve, they didn’t all
serve with the same level of humility, drive, “quality,” or even spirituality.
It left me wondering why this happened…and it caused us to hone our process. Wouldn’t
a process that was consistent and thorough yield relatively consistent results?
Why? People are
different. Positions are different.
Circumstances are different. People
respond differently to stress and pressure. And some people, because of
giftedness, preferred speed of ministry, and other relational qualities will be
a much better “fit” for some ministry contexts than others. Sports teams seem
to get this. They draft players according to the system they run on offense or
defense. I learned early in ministry that even a high-quality minister may
serve ineffectively if she or he is put into a ministry context that doesn’t
fit their gift mix, personality, preferred ministry pace, etc.
So, how do we find this all out on the front end, rather
than on the job?
1. Know thyself. Is
your ministry context fast, mid, or slow-paced? Where is the church heading
over the next few years? What kind of people do your current elders and staff
work best with? What work values are cherished most, and which work sins (i.e.,
not following through, for example) are most frowned upon? If a church doesn’t
know who they are, it will be hard to know a fit when they see one…and will
usually misfit themselves for ministry with a minister who may be capable…just
not in that particular context. To put it another way, if we don’t know what sport
we’re playing, we’ll buy the wrong glove and end up trying to play Catcher with
a bowling glove on.
2. Don’t hire everyone and every position
with an identical process. You should choose a process that surfaces
the best possible person (including their “fit), and prepares them to be
successful. Don’t just form a search committee because that’s how you’ve always
done it. If a key need for that ministry position is the ability to build
relationships, craft a process that highlights such. If preaching ability is
key, don’t parade them in front of the church…go watch them in their native
context. Listen to lots of their sermons to see if they are consistently able,
or just had an “on” or “off” week. If a Tiger Woods of ministry comes into your
orbit—move quickly, you don’t have a year—because they won’t be around that
long. Devise a quick but thorough process that allows for speed and precision. Choose
a process that will lead to the best result, and be maliable. The process
should fit the position being hired, and be as quick and thorough as possible. "Process was made for hiring, not hiring for the process."
3. Ask the right people the right
questions. If you form a search team for a process, pay very careful attention to who you pick for that team. Pick mature,
spiritual, discerning people who are good team players and have very high “Emotional
I.Q.’s.” Don’t pick the most opinionated, most controlling, or biggest gripers
thinking that will appease them. Hiring isn’t a game. It’s a sacred event. So, don’t
trifle with it. Don’t try to appease with it.
4. Always be hiring. I am
aware that’s a grammatical nightmare J but
I try to make sure that I have a constant awareness of what the church’s ministry
needs are, and am always looking for and noticing talented people that would be
a good “fit.” So, when the resources become available, we have a sense of what
and who we want. We rarely start completely from square one. An added bonus of
this mentality is this: You will get to know people best when they don’t know
you’re interviewing them. Before you’re hiring is a much better time to observe the real them than the interview
5. Look Inside. I used
to think that hiring from inside the church was suicide. It usually brought
unnecessary drama into the mix. I’ve become a convert on this. People inside
the church have demonstrated they are behind the vision, leadership, and
direction of the church…and they were serving the church diligently and
passionately before they were ever paid to do so. True, this is often best for
positions requiring less biblical/theological training. However, hiring
insiders can be a blessing…as long as they are capable. A side benefit is that
when we hire from inside the church, we’re adding people to the ranks of
ministry, not shifting troops from one battlefield to another.
6. Be Honest. If
your church is going through a difficult time, say so. If your church is in decline,
say so. If it can be a tough place to work at times, say so. If leadership
really isn’t that supportive when the rubber meets the road, don’t mislead a
candidate into thinking they are coming to a place they aren’t. Ministers aren’t
scared of challenges. Better put, the
minister you want to serve in your church isn’t afraid of challenges. Tell
the truth, and trust God to lead the right person to you. They’re scared of
being thrown under the bus by the church, and entering a stifling or harmful
environment. They are more concerned with whether or not they can trust the church with their heart,
livelihood, family, etc. But, they aren’t scared of challenges. Be trustworthy,
and expect courageous leadership from them.
7. Create the Habitat.
When a prospective minister comes to visit, most have a sensitive nose for
chaos, disunity, lack of spirituality, etc. To use a term from Sunday’s sermon,
churches can be greenhouses or gas chambers for spirituality. If you find that
once candidates visit you, they are no longer interested…check the environment.
Keeping the church an encouraging, energetic, spiritually-minded place is vital
not only in hiring, but in church health as well.
Tomorrow… the “fit.”