I was recently counseling a search team that the interview process is not just about selecting a candidate but also ensuring a candidate has what is needed to discern if the church is a right choice as well. I encouraged them to be active in sharing challenges as well as opportunities and not to gloss over the tough stuff. The right candidate will know the truth (the beautiful and the ugly) and still feel the call of God to come.
Over the years I have noticed that candidates, however, seem to believe the interview is a one-way street and the search team or board is driving the car. Many become “passive” in the interview process. They share their story, their call, their passions, gifts and talents. They talk about experiences, theology and philosophy of ministry. They open up about failures, redemptions, hopes and dreams. But they wait for someone else (search team, consultant, board) to discern if they are the right fit for the position. They stop asking other questions to figure out if the position is the right fit for them.
I want to say it again: Interviews are a two-way street.
Yes, interviews are about “selling” yourself as a candidate. But they are also about checking under the hood to ensure the opportunity you are “buying” can actually deliver what you need to be optimized in ministry.
Asking questions is key. Of the 307 questions the Bible records that Jesus asked, one of my favorites is the interaction Jesus has with the lawyer in Luke 10:25-26. When the lawyer asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus asked him back, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” (ESV).
“How do you read it?” What a powerful question! Discerning the answer to important questions requires engagement not passivity. For candidates entering an interview process that means first asking questions to know yourself:
- If I could create my ideal job description, what three things would I choose to do every day?
- What three things would I never do again, if given the choice?
- What is my pace in ministry?
- What kinds of opportunities get me excited to get up and go to work?
- What kinds of challenges do I enjoy tackling?
- What do I do best?
- Where do I need the intentional help or support of others to be optimized?
- Realizing no place is perfect, how do I describe my ideal context (church or workplace)?
- What one thing will be present in an opportunity I am genuinely excited to go to?
Once you have some clarity about the kind of context and opportunity which will best fit your gifts and strengths, you can proactively engage the interview process to ask the kinds of questions that will help to aid the discernment of “fit.”
For those who aren’t sure what kinds of questions to ask during the interview process, here are a few suggestions:
- How would you describe the general culture of your church?
- What is the biggest challenge facing this church?
- What is the biggest opportunity that could be leveraged under the right leadership?
- How would you describe the pace of ministry here?
- How would you describe the process of decision-making here?
- How would you describe the workweek rhythm you envision for this position?
- How will I be evaluated and by whom?
- What are the benchmarks of success for this position?
- What is the one thing the right individual will do to be successful in your eyes?
Interviews are a two-way street. Drive thoughtfully.