I am by no means an expert on the ministerial candidating process, in fact, thanks to CPE I am discovering how different it is from denomination to denomination. I do, however, believe that most Southern Baptist/Evangelical ministers should need to take some good classes on interviewing and being interviewed. The reason I say this is because I know a decent number of people who went into some horrendous situations/churches without ever doing any basic research into the church/pastor/congregation that was doing serious research into them. What do you mean you are surprised everything turned South? If you had done even a small amount of digging you would have found ten people who would have told you about the church’s or staff’s issues.
I guess the stated reason for not digging into a church or staff is because the candidate thinks they are trusting God by not questioning things. I think that is baloney. I trust God and I have gone into a difficult situation or two in my ministerial life but I never went into those situations, nor would I take my family into those situations, blind.
Researching didn’t mean that I wouldn’t go into a situation if something didn’t seem right. In fact, I went into Parkview Baptist Church, where I stayed for 7 years, knowing there was a decent chance the pastor would leave when I got there. My family and I went to Baton Rouge and two months later Wayne DuBois, the pastor, left Parkview. My research led me to believe God was calling me to Parkview and it had nothing to do with the pastor, therefore him leaving didn’t really matter. Same came true again when Bill Pruitt, who I loved as a pastor, left. I wasn’t there to work with a pastor so it didn’t really matter who the pastor was. My research into Parkview helped me to know that.
My mindset in interviewing with a church was that since I would be bringing my family into the church/city I better research it as much as possible. That’s what I believe good spouses and parents do. I don’t want to blindly bring my family into a terrible situation and I don’t think God wants me to blindly do that either. Therefore, I always researched the church as much, if not more, than they were researching me.
What does this mean?
1. I always interviewed the person who had the position before me. Why did they leave? Would they work with the pastor again? Would they work with the staff again? What do they wish they had known before they went there? I learned a ton from this. I interviewed people who had left the position on good terms and bad terms. I didn’t care why they left. I cared greatly about any info they could give me. My call threw a couple of former ministers off but their info helped me a lot. I offered this same opportunity to the people who came after me and I told them I would shoot straight with them on their questions. Know how many took me up on it? None.
2. I always interviewed the other staff and pastor of the church. Since I was usually interviewing for a Youth Ministry position I asked questions about working with the pastor. What is he like? If its a Southern Baptist/Evangelical church you can pretty well guess that the pastor will be a male. Would you work with him again if you had the opportunity? Is there anything you wish you had known before you came to the church? Is there anything you think I should know that you don’t believe I know? That last question was how I found out that Wayne Dubois at Parkview was probably leaving. Two staff members answered that question by saying “you might want to ask Wayne how long he is staying.” So I did. I asked him if I came was going to be there for at least the next year. Most people, especially pastors, don’t want to lie to you but they don’t mind simply not telling you something if you aren’t smart enough to ask the question. Wayne DuBois stumbled around a little bit and finally said “I have been looking but I promise you I will tell you immediately if I get serious with another church.” Since I didn’t come to Parkview to work with him, it wasn’t any big deal when he left. Actually the person I really wanted to work with became pastor so it worked out great. Also please understand when I say “staff” I mean everyone, not just ministerial staff. When I left Jessica Lawrence could have told you more about Parkview and what was going on there than most other people. Administrative assistants and secretaries offer a wealth of information and I wanted to talk with them.
3. Interview other ministers from the area. I called other churches and the associational offices (Southern Baptist churches are usually a part of area associations). I wanted to hear what other ministers in the area thought about the church and about the staff of the church. What was the rep of the church? What was the rep of the pastor? This was important to me since I was going to be inheriting that rep. The associational office was also invariably able to give me lots of numbers concerning the church. Those numbers were always helpful in understanding what was really going on in the church.
There were some other things I did because I am my mother’s son and I enjoy researching people and place but the above is the stuff that I found most helpful that I believe every minister should do.