A while ago I was job searching at various churches around the country. Over the course of two separate seasons of about 3 months each, I had conversations, filled out applications, was interviewed at, and traveled to maybe a dozen churches spread out across the country. Almost all of them were fantastic churches that, for one reason or another, just didn’t end up being a good fit for me.
As a side note, one of the comical things I experienced was that every single church I talked to in my interviews said the same few things in one way or another. Things like:
- “We’re a super healthy church.”
- “We live right on the border between two major demographics in our city.”
- “Our building is on a great location, right by the highway.”
- “Leadership is really supportive of our student ministries.”
I’m not saying I doubt any of the truthfulness of what they said, it just struck me as funny that every church I talked to kept saying the same things.
I remember one church in particular seemed just about perfect. Everything from location to vision to size and the job they were interviewing me for hit most of the “checks” on my list. But I still didn’t feel motivated to accept the position. I could tell their team was an amazing group of men and women who had a lot of history together, fun, and common interests. After a few days of praying, (over)thinking, and processing with Linds and some friends, I called the guy who would have been my boss to decline the job.
I decided to be honest with him and say that although everything seemed great, their staff seemed to have a great dynamic to it, which I just didn’t see myself fitting into. I’ll never forget his response. He, with a great deal of understanding and wisdom, replied: “I totally get that, man. I realized a long time ago that at the end of the day, I just want to do ministry with my friends.”
It was one of the most profound things I’ve ever heard about church-hiring.
I’ve experienced the large, slow gears of church hiring from both sides of the equation on multiple occasions. And I’ve found it’s incredibly difficult. And even the times it ends up working, too often I’ve seen the hired person not stay very long.
I think this is mostly due to the fact that hiring for a ministry role is different than hiring for a marketplace job. Due to the fact that most companies and interviewees just look at the things on a piece of paper such as salary and job description. Whereas a job in some form of ministry requires things like feeling called and spiritual gifts and a person’s relationship with Jesus.
In fact, we’ve nailed this down to a formula. Usually there are some list of overarching criteria that churches pay attention to when considering a hire. Most of them are a list of “C” words such as:
I’ve seen lists with other “C’s” but these 4 seem to be most common.
After experiencing a lot of interviews and the comment made by my almost-supervisor, I came up with a theory about church hiring: Churches should just hire their friends!
I think part of the reason church hiring is so laborious and time-consuming is because it takes a long, long, and (sometimes) LONG time to discover the character, competency, calling, and chemistry of a person! That’s why dating relationships, friendships, and park district softball leagues take a long time to form and deepen! It’s an intensely difficult thing to figure out over the course of a couple hour-long interviews, spread out over weeks and months.
So instead, hire your friends! People you know and can check 3 of the 4 “C’s” off the list! Hiring a friend means they’re someone you already have chemistry with, someone you know the character of, and someone you trust has the competency for the job you’re hiring for! The only question left is, do they feel called to it or not!
Now to be clear (to all your Human Resources reading this), I’m not saying that churches should, in any way, discriminate who they hire or only hire “yes men/women” who aren’t going to challenge them or keep them accountable.
I just mean that I think there’s some wonderful wisdom to “doing ministry with your friends.”
As I’ve thought through this, I’ve realized that some of the healthiest, most dynamically flourishing churches I know of were started and are lead by a group of friends! People who have done life together and who share a lot of similarities in their passions, gifts, theology, free-time, creativity, culture, goals, and much more.
All that being said, this might be a terrible idea, I mean I’m not in a leadership position over a church or dictating how hiring is or should be done. So, obviously take all this with a grain of salt. Actually more like a huge grain of salt. Like a horse salt lick.