Thank you to special guests Jake and Melissa Kircher for contributing this article.
Interviewing for a ministry position is much different than interviewing for a “secular” job. Churches dig deep into your personal life and it can often feel invasive and unnecessary. After going through these types of interviews, we have seen the wisdom in this type of approach. However, we have also learned that during this process, the person seeking a job has a similar responsibility to thoroughly investigate and discern if a prospective church or ministry position will fit their family’s needs.
It’s not enough to get the job. You as a prospective employee need to deeply understand what you’re getting into. There are countless pastors and church staff who kick themselves a year into a new position for not fully understanding the distinct expectations, office climate, church structure, and financial system they’re now dealing with…and how greatly all these things now have an impact on their marriages and families.
Here are some things to consider as you delve into interviewing. Remember, churches will ask you deeply personal questions to ascertain if you are the best fit for them, so you have every right to inquire just as insightfully.
1. Spouse’s Calling
Often times, when it comes to discerning a vocational call, ministry is often put on a pedestal and recognized as a kind of “higher calling”. However, your spouse might not be called to the ministry, but their work is equally important to the Lord. Before you interview, take the time to pray and talk with your spouse about their calling and giftedness and prayerfully consider how both your vocations might mesh together. Consider finances, schedules and life goals.
As you interview, communicate to the church your spouse’s calling and how that dictates your specific family expectations. We did this in one interview and were bluntly told, “It’s unrealistic for your wife to want to be an artist and eventually stay home with children. She’ll have to get a job to support your ministry.” This wasn’t what we felt the Lord saying to us, so we knew to end the process for this specific position.
Finding a church where your spouse can pursue their calling as you pursue yours will create a healthy and mutually supportive marriage.
Once you understand your family’s calling, you can begin to figure out finances. Are you planning on being a one or two income family? If your family will be depending on a ministry income alone, research living costs in the area and a make a budget based on the potential income and projected living expenses. Will the financial package offered be sustainable and healthy or will you be constantly worried about money? To help figure out a healthy salary, compare your experience and education with that of a local high school teacher in the town the church is located.
Is the expectation that you and your spouse or family will live in the same town or city where the church is located and if so, does the income you’d receive support this?
How do the people in the search committee talk about finances? What’s the tone they use? Do they keep changing numbers? Be alert for red flags. In one interview, committee members bluntly told us, “We’re going to work your husband hard and under pay him.” This would be a major red flag!
Lastly, find out how the church goes about yearly reviews and see if they give out performance based raises as well as cost of living raises.
Is the position projected to be long-term or short-term and how would this fit your career goals and family’s needs? Keep in mind a spouse’s job and children’s schooling.
What will the hours be like? How many hours a week does the job entail and how many night and weekend commitments will there be? Too many nights out for ministry can often destroy a marriage and alienate families.
Does the church seem supportive of family time…for the pastor? This would be another area where you’d want to probe deeper. Many churches support the parishioners’ family time, but expect a pastor to sacrifice theirs. Inquire if you would be allowed to not attend an event or meeting if you felt a particular week or month was too busy ministry-wise.
How many full days off per week would you get? Any healthy work environment includes two full days off per week but having at least one should be a non-negotiable.
4. Family Obligations
What does the church expect of your spouse? Some churches often hope for a “two-for-one” deal where they pay one salary but expect the wife or husband to be a second pastor of sorts. Are they expected to serve in the ministry in some way?
Also, just as important, what does the church expect out of your children? Would there be an issue if wanted to attend a different church’s youth ministry?
5. Nitty Gritty
Beyond these family specific issues, here are a collection of other questions you should ask that could affect your family if not discussed:
• Was the last person to hold this position laid off, fired, or did they resign?
• Why did they leave the position specifically?
• Would you be dealing with any of their same difficulties?
• Is there room for career growth?
• Would you be able to use your gifting effectively and grow as a leader?
• How would the church support the pastors’ or staff’s spiritual life?
• How does the church structure deal with office conflicts?
• What are the marriages like of other pastors at the church?
• Has there been any sexual abuse reported in the history of the church?
• Do the leaders of the church regularly pray for each other and get together for times of fun and relationship building?
• Are there any lifestyle restrictions that would be imposed on you and your family such as no dancing, drinking, secular music etc.?
As you, your spouse, and your family go through the arduous interview process, keep in mind that the Lord is with you. He knows your specific needs and if you follow Him, God will provide a job in the right time and at the right place. Be wise, ask good questions, stick to your family commitments and trust the Lord above all.
This article was originally published on YouthMinistry.com. Jake and Melissa Kircher do ministry at a church in Connecticut as well as write about marriage and relationships on www.holymessofmarriage.com. They also write regularly for RelevantMagazine.com and YouthMinistry.com.