subscribe: Posts | Comments

7 Reminders for Pastoral Applicants

1 comment
This is the second part of a 2-part article reflecting on my 18-month search for a new pastorate. In the first part, I listed 7 Ways Search Teams Can Bless Pastoral Applicants. That article, as the title suggests, was aimed at pastoral search teams. This piece is aimed at the applicants themselves and offers seven important realities to remember in order to retain your sanity along the way.
  1. Remember that God is sovereign over your job search.
This truth is vital. It is easy to lose sight of this reality in the frenzy of reading job postings, doing background research, sending out resumes, filling out applications and personality profiles, answering questionnaires, and conducting phone, Skype, and in-person interviews. It can feel like the weight of the decision rests entirely on your own shoulders.
            It is precisely here that a great deal of wisdom is required. You must indeed work hard to find the right position. You must do all those things that I just mentioned. At the height of my own search I had a dozen online job boards that I perused at least once a week, if not more often. I spent hours on all those applications, profiles, questionnaires, and interviews of various kinds (including several that involved significant travelling). I lost track of how many copies of my resume, doctrinal statement, and philosophy of ministry went out into cyberspace. The search for a new pastorate requires a lot of hard work on our part.
            But in the midst of all this activity we must retain a confident reliance on the one who gives to the church “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers” (Eph. 4:11). If we really believe that God is sovereign over his church then we will trust him to guide us to the right place at the right time. He is, after all, the Chief Shepherd (I Pet 5:4)—he will take care of his flock. This means both that he will take care of you, brother pastor (because you are one of his sheep) and that he will take care of his other sheep by placing you as an under-shepherd in just the right flock.
            At one point during my search, my wife and I were taking one day per week to fast and pray for God’s guidance. For various reasons we did not continue that discipline throughout the entirety of my year-and-a-half search, but while we were doing that, I felt a greater level of peace and trust in God’s plan than I did at any other time in the process.
            God is sovereign over this time of your life, too.
  1. Remember that search teams are composed of volunteers.
            When corporations set out to fill a position, they can usually find a good candidate quickly. That’s because they task one person (or sometimes, a small team of people) with that job. There’s a person in an office somewhere devoting 40 or 50 hours per week to filling the vacancy.
            Churches work differently, for better and worse. For one thing, instead of one person or a small group of people looking at pastoral candidates, churches generally appoint a small committee or search team with this responsibility. Instead of 1 to 3 people working to fill a position, churches have teams of 6 to 8 people all giving input. One church I worked with had a committee with a dozen people on it. That alone will complicate and lengthen the search process.
            Additionally, church search teams are composed either entirely, or mostly, of volunteers who can’t devote an entire work week to the search. These search teams are getting together once (or, for really, really organized groups, twice) per week for a couple of hours. When they have dozens or hundreds of resumes to sort through, this structure is going to take a while to get anywhere.
            What does this mean for the applicant? Be patient. Don’t assume that silence necessarily means rejection. Give them time to think and pray and seek God’s guidance for their church. Be gracious as you interact with them.
  1. Remember that your friends outside of ministry often have different priorities from yours.
            Friends who are not in vocational ministry will have a hard time relating to the priorities of a person seeking for a healthy church family to shepherd. For most people, their job changes are determined by salary considerations, career advancement, family or geographical considerations, or some combination of these factors. (Unfortunately, these are the priorities for many pastors, too, but I’m assuming better things for the readers of this article!) So, when your friends assume you’re looking for a bigger church, or a wealthier church, don’t jump down their throats. They’re just trying to understand your decision-making process.
            This difference in priorities is even more pronounced when you are talking with non-Christian friends. They will have zero categories for understanding why you would leave one congregation and join another. Consider this an opportunity to explain what matters to you first and foremost as a minister of the gospel—a church family that loves Jesus and wants to follow him in his mission.
  1. Remember that there is wisdom in the counsel of others.
            Having said everything that I just did in #3, above, I will now add the other side of the coin. While you have to make allowances for the different priorities of those who are not in ministry, that doesn’t mean that those friends have nothing of value to offer with their advice. There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors (Prov. 11:14; 15:22). Weigh their opinions and suggestions carefully, but don’t dismiss them without a hearing.
  1. Remember that prospective churches deserve your honesty as much as you deserve theirs.
            In the companion piece to this article I sought to remind pastoral search teams of the tendency of churches to overestimate their willingness to accept change and their readiness to adopt a new mandate or vision. But there is an equally prevalent tendency among pastoral candidates (along with every other job applicant) to exaggerate their credentials, experience, education, or other characteristics.
            Brother pastor, you’re only hurting yourself when you misrepresent yourself. You’re setting yourself up for frustration and failure. Be honest about who you are and how God has gifted and equipped you. How terrible it would be to accept a position, move to a new city, and take up a new ministry, only to discover that your new congregation wanted you primarily on the basis of a false understanding of who you are. How much better to be wanted by a church family because you are exactly the person they need for this time in their history.
            Honesty in this regard must be a stringent requirement. We must be relentless in our pursuit of transparency in our resumes and other personal documents, especially since it is so easy to lapse into exaggeration and “resume-padding.” Whenever I consider this I remember the finale episode for the seventh season of “The Office,” in which Darryl, the warehouse manager (played by Craig T. Robinson), in seeking the position of branch manager, reports on his 4-page resume that he had “coordinated and implemented receipt, storage, and delivery of over 2.5 billion units of inventory.” When pressed, he admits that he was counting individual sheets of paper. Resume-padding par excellence. Honesty and transparency are reasonable expectations of a child of God (Eph. 4:25; Col. 3:9).
  1. Remember that your current church deserves your full effort.
            As my own 18-month search dragged on, it became increasingly tempting to start “phoning it in,” as the saying goes. When I realized that I had lapsed into doing the bare minimum, I addressed the problem by deliberately planning some new evangelism and outreach initiatives for the church and for myself to implement. I didn’t want to be guilty of a “slow fade.” Those initiatives did not prove to be fruitful, (which, along with other factors simply contributed to my conviction that it was time to move on) but at least I am able to look back on my time there and say that we did everything we could have done to help the church grow.
            You want to be able to leave your current church on a high note, or, when that is not possible, at least with the knowledge that you fulfilled your responsibilities before the Lord. We are, after all, those who will give an accounting of our ministries (Heb. 13:17). Don’t give up!
  1. Don’t lose heart!
            And that brings us to our final reminder. Don’t lose heart! Rejection can quickly become the norm for anyone searching for a new job. Don’t allow those rejections to make you think that you are worthless, untalented, or doomed to failure. Yes, it would be lovely to be head-hunted by large, successful churches who fight over the opportunity to sit under your peerless teaching and leadership. But that’s just not how it is for the vast majority of us small-time pastors. Most of us must use the far-from-perfect system of sending resumes and waiting on responses. And that system inevitably includes a high number of rejections. That’s the nature of it. But, as far-from-perfect as this system is, God still uses it.
The search for a new pastorate can take you through some deep, dark valleys. And the longer the search, the darker the days tend to get. If that’s you, brother pastor, take heart. Be encouraged! God knows where he wants you to serve. Keep waiting. Keep serving where you are. Don’t lose heart.
  1. Mark Neubecker says:

    Helpful advice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Spam protection by WP Captcha-Free