You've spent time in prayer, you've refined your resume, you've networked well, and you've answered more email questionnaires than you could ever count. Then one day you're invited to a conference call or an in-person interview with a search team. Whether you're on your first or twentieth interview, preparing yourself is always important. It's a chance for a search team to get to know who you are, and for you to see if you'd be a good fit for the church.
Most interviews are limited in nature; you're dealing with volunteers who are giving their time to sit and talk with you. So you want to honor them and their commitment as much as they are trying to honor your time.
I think there's four things crucial to bring to your interview:
1) A Philosophy Of Ministry - God has called you to ministry, that's obvious in your own heart and in the search team's willingness to talk to you. But He hasn't called you to be like your childhood pastor, or the youth minister who discipled you. He's called you to be who He wants you to be. A philosophy of ministry is a way of explaining who He's called you to be and what He's called you to do. It's your heartbeat for ministry. It's what makes you unique. It helps a search team know who they're getting, and it helps you identify your gifts/passions/talents.
2) References - You may have put them on your resume, and even if you did have some names of people who know your ministry chops, who've served with you, who know you well, and most importantly who will speak truthfully about you. Yes you need people to say good things about you (I heard a story from a church who looked at a candidate until his references said not to hire him!), but you need people who will share your strengths and your weaknesses, your gifts and your areas for improvement. A church is potentially willing to make a huge investment in you, honest references help determine if you're a fit.
3) Success Stories - I know this can be tough if you don't have a lot of experience, or if you're looking to transition into a new area of ministry (I was in youth ministry for nearly 10 years before becoming a senior pastor). But if you have any stories of experience, whether it was a win or a lesson, that have helped shape you and prepare you for your potential ministry, share them with the search team. Don't reach for them, be honest about the context and scope.
4) A List of Questions - This is perhaps one of the areas many ministry candidates don't take advantage of during the interview. Most interviews will transition with the question "Do you have anything for us?" In that moment you have free reign to ask them what you need to. They have opened the door for you to explore and probe them, the church, the ministry position, the history, and more. (Note: This is not the time to discuss salary) Don't waste the opportunity by saying "No, thank you." unless you're certain God is not calling you there. Here's the questions I asked my current church when I interviewed with them. Feel free to use them, or this list produced by Thom Rainer.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.