(And the answers I look for)
“What one book or podcast would you recommend to the staff?” “What excites you most about this role?” “What qualities would you bring to the team?” I have asked these and about a bazillion other questions that help examine a job applicant’s fit for a position. These questions and others have led me to understand an interviewee’s Myer’s-Briggs, StrengthsFinder, spiritual gifts, passions, experience, character, and the fact that one applicant never wears matching socks. But over the years, there are five questions that have made their way to the forefront of the hiring process for me.
These five are the questions in my head I am constantly wrestling with, not only for myself, but also for my staff. These are the grit that will make or break a church staffer. They will be the difference between productivity and gridlock, sowing sparingly or generously, and being a good steward of the church’s resources, or creating a black hole where time, energy, and ministry opportunities are lost. These questions do not just direct hiring, but they set the stage for the work ahead.
QUESTION #1 – Leadership
What is your leadership model?
The answers I often get are: “Be a servant leader.” “Be willing to do whatever, even scrub the toilets.” Yes. Of course these things. This is the foundation of the heart. And if this attitude isn’t there, the interview can be short. But once established that the heart is there, what about the mind? Have real leadership thoughts been thought through? Has this person put time toward examining the cost to the church of being a leader? Will the precious tithe dollars that go to pay this person’s salary be represented by this person alone or will there be more—disciples for example?
Ephesians tells us that we should equip the church to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12). Matthew calls us to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).
What I’m looking for: I want to know that this person has a plan for and a lifestyle of inviting others into what God is doing. They do not wish to find themselves solo in the spotlight of leadership, but represented by many they have invested in, trained, led, and invited to work. And even more, they look for leaders who will do the same.
QUESTION #2 – Agility
How do you handle change?
What I’m looking for: lack of entitlement. It’s a willingness to step away from a project, even one they have spent long hours ideating about and even producing, to join what God is doing, with an acknowledgement that we are all working toward the same thing.
Take the disciples for example. Traveling with an impromptu caravan of 5,000 plus people requires agility. Some scholars say as many as 20,000 people could have been following Jesus to hear His words. And they were hungry, not just spiritually, but physically. Jesus turned to His disciples and asked them to do something they were unprepared for. How could they have been? Last year when they projected the coming year’s budget and event planning, no one factored into the “meals” category a gathering of thousands!
Instead of working up some short-sited plan, or getting caught up in what the budget did not accommodate for, this agile crew looked for what the Lord had in mind, and went with it. The team around us needs to be able to do the same. Those we hire should have the ability to look in the face of big challenges, unexpected needs, and scrambled plans, and see past them all into what God has in store.
QUESTION #3 – Workload
What if you have way more on your plate than is possible to accomplish?
I often ask it this way: Say you arrived to work on Monday morning, knowing you had a full week of work ahead of you, projects mapped out, volunteers coming to help, and just enough time to get it all in, only to find out your boss added another huge project on your plate, or three. And by the way, it ALL has to get done. What do you do?
What I’m looking for: Will this person spend critical moments finding ways to leverage and enlist volunteer teams or will he just power through, skipping lunch, staying late, and stressing everyone out? This is a leadership question at its core. The thing I love about this question is that I believe when we are abiding in Christ, living His life for us, we, more often than not, find ourselves living beyond our physical means.
I made the choice a few years back of praying that God would give me a life that I could not do on my own. I prayed this because, if I could do it on my own, I would not rely on His strength and I would miss big God-things happening in my life. Then, three kids later, a full-time job, and a husband in medical school, I quickly became acquainted with the prayer: “God, I cannot do this. I need You to.” When we rely on His power, we find contentment and miraculous ability to accomplish His work.
“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
QUESTION #4 – Gravitation
What are you drawn to the most: people, things, or ideas?
There is no wrong answer here. Everyone is wired differently and can even be a combination. The key here is determining what the need is for the fit in the position.
Someone automatically drawn to people might work well in a role where there is a high level of relational expectation. Coupled with the ability to get things done and the discipline not to be a distraction in an environment of hard work, this person could do well. A “things” person could thrive where there are tangible tasks required. Ensuring they have enough vision to include others in their projects is key. A person who gravitates toward the ideas realm could work well on a team where ideas are a priority, and time is taken to explore them.
QUESTION #5 – God’s Work
How has God revealed His work to you in this process?
What I am looking for: Is this person able to recognize God’s work in and around them? If so, what is it that God is doing in or around them that is drawing them to this place?
We cannot be afraid to find out what God is telling our applicants. I encourage them to be upfront about hints of His involvement even if they feel like they only have part of the puzzle. This question has proved quite helpful in the hiring process. After all, we serve a big God who is not chaotic, but orderly, who has a plan for the work He desires to do, and is asking us to do it in a unified way. This conversation has often led to discovery of His work and the ability to connect passed-over interviewees into a different area of ministry that fits them well. Seeking to discover God’s work together can open our eyes to things we may easily miss on a resume. Zechariah 4:6 says, “’Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” One of the best ways to recognize the right applicant for the position is to see how the Holy Spirit’s work in them matches what God is doing in the church.
Hiring is one of the most important tasks we do in ministry. The decisions we make in hiring have exponential influence as we factor in the decisions of those we hire. The Bible says that we will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). Not only are we investing in the lives of the handful we will hire in our lifetime, but also in the eternities of those they serve. The disciples of those we hire today may be making disciples long after we are gone. So let’s hire well!
Summer Christopher, Elementary Director at Sandals Church, is practicing the art of celebrating this year as her husband graduates from medical school, she experiences an undisclosed, significant birthday (which ironically is in the fall), and her eyes are opened to more of God’s goodness each day.