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Some Advice Before You Hire

By Sean Murphy | Youth Pastor, First United Methodist, Amory, Mississippi | November 14 2012

Have you ever wondered why a church would hire you? If you have served in a paid capacity in the church, you may have felt this way at some point. I can say that on more than one occasion I have asked this same question. I thought about the interview process and where I might've gone wrong. How could I have prevented myself from being in this same situation again and again? When I interviewed at my current church, there were several specific things I talked about indepth during the interview process. These were very important to me, even to the point of saying no to my current position.

I wanted to serve in a church where I could use my strengths and gifts. I even turned in two strength and gift assessments to give the Staff Parish Relations Committee some insight to who I am. I felt I wanted the committee members to have information about me that would help them make a good decision about hiring me. I had served in previous churches where I never used any of my strengths after the first three to six months. I knew I needed to be using my gifts in order to be a good youth pastor. About three months into my current position, it became obvious to me that no one read any of my gifts and strength assessments. I kept thinking that if I had been interviewing myself, I never would have hired me. Now, I am 15 months into my current position, unhappy, not using my gifts, and feel it is time to move on.

I have come to realize that so many churches are looking for someone who can fix their youth ministry. My number one gift is problem solving. I am a fixer through and through, but I cannot fix all the issues in my current youth ministry. Our first Sunday night youth meeting my wife, all the youth and I were present, but no parents, church leader or pastor came to do so much as introduce us. It was absolutely the most awkward time I ever have experienced. I knew then I was in trouble. My church, similar to so many churches, focused on whom instead of what. I've learned you never can ignore the current reality of any ministry. You can like what I say during the interview, and can say, "We need him"; but you never can ignore the reality of what is. I was asked about what type of youth ministry model I like to follow, and I replied "Sustainable youth ministry." In a church where everything dies after some one leaves, that sounds pretty good. The problem is that nothing in the current ministry is sustainable. This was the second most important item on my interview list. We all know oil and water do not mix!

I honestly can say I have floundered for 15 months. I never have been able to get anything going the way I have in the past. It's been a tough and humbling 15 months to say the least! I have had conversations with four different churches during past six weeks, and I still see churches making the same mistake repeatedly. A church asked me what would be my vision for its youth ministry. That's a pretty hard question to answer. If we are honest with ourselves, how do we know what the vision should be? If we never have been to the church and we do not know a soul, then how do we know what the vision should be? Your youth ministry can't resemble a puzzle poured out on a table with missing pieces. It's purposely hiring someone to fail, and that is wrong. No secular company would purposely hire someone to fail, but churches will turn blind eyes in a heartbeat! If I have learned anything about serving as a youth pastor, it's that the senior pastor and people of the church have to set the vision for the people. The youth pastor does not have the clout to set the vision—that is, if we are truly honest with ourselves. If your youth ministry resembles a puzzle dumped out with missing pieces, then it may not be the right time to hire someone.

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