A few days ago we posted a bit titled “Mistakes Churches Make In Hiring” and it went TJI viral. So I’m following that up with this on the other side of the matter.
Most preachers I know do MUCH right. They are godly, humble, humans striving to be the best they can be and help others go to heaven. So aside from the obvious…pray, be the person you need to be, preach and continue to study there are mistakes ministers make in accepting and in the first few months after accepting a new roll that will harm their potential effectiveness.
They didn’t get stuff in writing: If an eldership refuses to do things in writing it is a HUGE red flag. If they ask if you are questioning their integrity assure them of the truth - that you are human and sometimes you forget things and need it in case you forget. And further it may be needed for future elderships should a turnover occur. If you don’t get things in writing and then they fall apart and you believe you have been wronged - that does happen sometimes - you have no proof of any sort.
They bought a house to quickly: I’m fairly sure I’m on an one man mission with this one. This should be number one but I don’t want to appear too obvious on my mission. Unless you have a truckload of money and a backup truck just as filled to the first truck DO NOT rush into a house. Ever since preachers got wise to the “we’ll provide you a house” so you won’t have to pay a house payment (thereby killing any equity and helping buy the church more real-estate), preachers have been buying houses. But often we rush into it. DON’T buy till you have lived there a year or longer. This gives you the freedom to not rush, to learn the congregation and get a feel for if it’s a good fit and to learn the area and figure out what neighborhood you’d want to be in.
They used the “churches” email address: Yes, I know you are excited about the work and think you will be there the rest of your life - wasn’t that what you thought at the last place too? You want your email address to identify where you are - great but who does the address actually belong to? You? Not if the church bought the domain or name. There are always some who might be reading your email through the backdoor - it happens - I know. Not that we are sharing national security secrets or anything we should be ashamed of - but some matters of counsel are confidential. And ultimately when you leave you don’t want to have to remember to change your email with everyone - hey, you might forget and miss an issue of Ministers & Mocha.
They oversold themselves - made promises they couldn’t keep: Be careful about writing checks your mouth, your energy, or your abilities can’t cash! Do not sell what you are not, If you make huge claims of all you are going to do 1. It seems to make your work more about you than God and 2. what if you arrive and find matters that block anything you attempt to do? Be who you are. Express dreams for what you think might be able to be done. Show some excitement but don’t assure them, as one guy did a few years ago, “this church is gonna fly, just watch.” We did, the guy crashed and burned after 18 months.
They undersold themselves - agreed to an amount they could not live on: You might believe this is the simple converse of the previous mistake and while you do not need undersell your God-given abilities and honed skills this is more about 1 Timothy 5:8. You have a fiduciary responsibility to take care of your family. Don’t be greedy but DO be honest. If the church is offering a compensation you cannot live on BUT could do better AND you are interested in the work be honest and clear about your needs and why they are what they are.
They focused on only one segment of the church: This tends to happen naturally. When we are younger we tend to focus on, “cater” to, flock with the younger folks and as we grow older we do the same with the older people. Here is my suggestion from personal experience. When you are younger you don’t have to try with the younger people and vice-versa. And if you just float down-stream you will not make as much of an impact. Reach out to the older people - teach the class they attend. Go to youth events, eat a slice of pizza with them.
They didn’t learn from the previous experience: When a preacher is “released” I like to ask, ‘What did you learn from this experience in a positive way that will help you to be a better preacher in your next ministry?” The grief really isn’t worth it if you didn’t let God use it to make you better! But it’s not just when you’ve been “allowed to resign” that this is important. I have a permanent file titled “When I Move.” In it I keep good ideas from watching other people move with or start with grace and goodness. I keep mistakes I made in the move and how I would/will do it differently next time. Remember, write it down, cause you won’t remember!
They stopped growing: It would be hard to find a worse mistake for any Christian than for him or her to stop growing. How much more true this is for those of us in ministry. Challenge yourself. What happens with most of us is the preach and something at some point works - so we keep doing that thing. That isn’t bad but as time changes we must improve, learn more about how people listen, respond, are influenced. If what we were doing in the ’50’s worked and it does not now (not the message) it should not be shocking.
They didn’t have a mentor to bounce stuff off of: EVERY person needs mentors. One of the prime mistakes ministers make is not having interested outsiders who know them and love them but who do not in any way profit personally from their decisions who can speak wisdom into their situations. Who know them well enough and who they trust enough to advise them and to see what they may not.
In the interview listened to doctrinal stands on issues rather than how the elders/leaders handled issues and how the elders dealt with each other and with him as a preacher: Yes, issues matter, but there is a real reason to be at least as interested in how the elders interact with each other as where they are on specific issues. Can they debate and be friends? Do they treat each other and those who see things differently than they do with respect? Do they listen or do they think they are smarter than everyone around them?
They didn’t try out enough! There are several advantages to interviewing a good bit. You learn from each experience and practice interviews your interview skills.
They did not follow up: In the sister post to this one (http://www.thejenkinsinstitute.com/blog/2017/4/mistakes-churches-make-in-hiring) we talked at length to leaders about communicating with candidates. Here’s a brave thought. Try to convince elderships who DO NOT offer you a job to do a brief interview with you helping you understand how you could have interviewed better. You can’t do this bitterly but if you really want to be better you will try to find out HOW to be. Here’s the question: I want to be the best I can be, please help me by letting me know What can I improve on in my interviewing?
Of course these are, for the most part, just my opinions. Your list may be completely different. So feel free to add to and/or make suggestions below.
Oh, and by the way, I am sure there are mistakes in the article. I don't like it when those exist. But because 1. I am human and make them, 2. We don't have a professional proofer on staff (If you'd like that role and don't mind a pay of zero feel FREE to apply) and 3. because I am always in a rush to "ship," we will continue to make mistakes.