Starting in August I will be coming on staff at Redeemer Fellowship in a part time capacity. When Michelle and I first started considering the opportunity, there were a number of different factors that went into the decision. We have had previous ministry experience, some were good, some were bad. We wanted to take an honest look at our past experiences and as much as possible, replicate the good and eliminate the bad. As you prayerfully consider a position, keep these thoughts in mind.
People Are People
Keep in mind that no one is perfect, not even you. Do not search for a church that has the "perfect" people, "perfect" staff, or "perfect" elders. It just does't exist. I am not trying to be pessimistic, just realistic. There will be times when we will be hurt, or we will hurt others. Most of the time unintentionally, other times, intentionally (this is a whole other issue that needs to be addressed). Remember that your Father will work in the midst of imperfect people for good and His glory.
Best Foot Is Always Forward
I hate the question that always comes up in a job interview "What is your greatest weakness?" It is not for a lack of weaknesses but for the fact that I am in a job interview. The natural inclination is to put your best foot forward: "I work too much." "I care for others till it hurts." No one says "I easily get distracted by blogs, games, and social media to the point I get nothing done for hours." No one says " I am so hard hearted that I get envious at others success and bitter at their gifting." To be fair, no church says "We have a history of burning out our staff." Or that "We are known to be controlling and will fight any change that does not please us."
Listen, everyone wants to present themselves well. I get it, and it is not wrong. As you are considering a position, try to do some background. Ask why the previous pastor left. Find out what the staff turnover rate looks like, this is a pretty good indicator. Try to go out for lunch one on one with a staff member. If possible, try to talk to the previous staff member. Find out from the elders how the exit-interview went. How is the church leadership speaking about the previous staff member? Did they leave on good terms? How a church talks about previous staff behind their backs is a pretty good indicator of their heart.
Don't Force It
It is easy to force a position, especially when you are looking to provide for your family. Make sure the position fits well with your gifting and calling. If you are called to children's ministry, don't take on a young adults ministry, or AV ministry. We all struggle with our unbelief, "will another church take me if I pass this one?" "Will I be able to provide for my family?" Or we get really excited and blinded to the sign posts that scream "Not a good situation!" "Beware of unhealthy church culture!" Use wisdom and discernment. I have a friend who recently took on a position. The position fit him perfectly! He had been exploring options for some time and settled on what he knew was God's calling for him. Take the time, pray, explore, and discern with others you trust.
There is a fine line between being cynical and being discerning. Cynical seeks to look of the wrong in every situation, discerning is having the good judgement to make a decision based on all the information available. Often, in our excitement, we throw away discernment. Take the time to pray and seek what God has for you.
Come back Friday for Part 2 where we discuss what are some key items to look for in a pastoral position.