In the past year, I have talked with a number of ministers who are interviewing with various congregations. These congregations were in the process of looking for someone to fill a particular ministry role. Hearing these stories reminded me of my own experiences in interviewing with churches.
Church leaders often underestimate what they have to offer a prospective minister. They have much value to offer a minister and I’m not talking about money.
Some churches believe that talking with a prospective minister is all about salary, benefits, etc. Is that important? Sure. This family has to pay bills, save for emergencies, and have money to eat Mexican food. However, a church has more to offer than just a salary with benefits.
1. Church leaders need to spend time thinking about what they have to offer that is of value. For example, church leaders who will regularly and consistently encourage their ministers have something valuable to offer. Far too many ministers live in an atmosphere of regular, debilitating criticism. Others live with an erie silence from the key leaders of the church. These leaders don’t criticize their ministers. They say nothing. No words of encouragement or affirmation. No expression of interest or concern. At key moments these leaders remain silent.
Yet, there are elders who refuse to be silent. I once worked with an elder who told me that he and his wife prayed for me every single day. Another elder regularly expressed appreciation for specific things I had done. He did this in the presence of the other elders on a regular basis. Still another regularly highlighted what he appreciated about various sermons.
2. Church leaders who will form a hedge of protection around a young minister really have something of value to offer. Far too often, a young couple will move to a distant town or city to begin working with a church. While there are good people in this church, there is often someone who is difficult. Maybe this person doesn’t like the preaching and begins to criticize. Without the involvement of the key leaders, a few people can be allowed to destroy the confidence and spirit of this preacher. As a result, the entire congregation is impacted. Young preachers in particular need elders who will stand with them to support, protect, and encourage.
3. Church leaders who will show a genuine interest in the lives of their ministers and families definitely have something valuable to offer. Genuine interest by a group of church leaders toward their ministers and their families doesn’t cost a dime but may be one of the most valuable things they offer. I’ve known particular elders that took a genuine interest in their minister’s happiness, health, finances, and children. Again, this is huge.
Some church leaders might read this and think, “Well of course I’m interested in their welfare.” Yet, so often that is never expressed to a minister. It may be assumed but not expressed.
On the other hand, I can recall times when a church leader expressed genuine interest and how it felt. An elder once said to me, “I want to ask you a question about your salary. Do you feel good about it? Are we supporting you financially in a way that seems fair and right?” Now, I had no problem with my salary. However, it meant so much to me that he would care enough to ask this question.
Another elder periodically showed up at my office during the week. He would ask, “How are you doing — really? How is Charlotte? Are the girls happy and doing well in school?” He did this for many years. This was a huge gesture of care and goodwill.
Don’t underestimate the value that you (as a group of church leaders) and the congregation may have to offer a prospective minister. You may have more to offer than you might think.
What might church leaders or congregations have that is of value to prospective ministers? What have you witnessed or experienced?