1999 was a hallmark year in my life. I purchased my first home. I celebrated the birth of my 2nd daughter. I assumed my first pastorate. Yes my first pastorate!
After about a year long process, involving resumes, background check, credit check, trial teaching and preaching. I was called to a final interview. I was 28 years old at the time, bright eyed and bushy tailed, teeming with excitement. I was armed with vision statements, strategic plans, and life changing sermons. I was going to change the world! Looking back at the interviewing process I learned some things that may be helpful for anyone during the interview phase.
1. Become Familiar With the Church’s History – Upon applying for the church. I learned as much as I could about the church, its former pastors, and the surrounding neighborhood. Because it was a historical church there was plenty of information online. The neighborhood itself was loaded with many historic stories. I also asked other pastors and former parishioners about the church. I learned as much as I could about the culture and demographics as well. Educate yourself as much as you can about the church.
2. Honesty Is the Best Policy – One of the crucial mistakes I made during the interview process was telling them things about myself and my ministry that were “exaggerated” truth. This was my first pastorate and I was 29 years old. So of course I couldn’t have THAT much experience. But I simply repeated things I had read in books, or what I had been exposed to at conferences, or what I had witnessed other pastors doing. But if I had been completely honest, my experience and expertise did not match what I conveyed in the interview. And sooner than later as I embarked upon the assignment it showed. Be Honest.
3. Be Humble – Even if you have 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. Ask Questions – I know the interview is designed for them to ask you questions. But this is a great time for you to ask them questions. Number one, they won’t expect it. Number Two, lets them know you are thinking and ‘interviewing” them as well.