What I Learned From a Week of Church Interviews

This past week I was able to have a couple of interviews with a few church in North Carolina. I have been looking for my first full-time student pastor position since finishing my undergrad degree in November. I’ll be honest, not much has been happening since November. I have sent my resume to over a hundred churches, but was not getting any feedback or calls from those churches. All that changed this past week. Out of nowhere three churches called me and wanted to meet with me! I enjoyed each interview and believe God taught me a lot about myself and my future ministry. Here are a few things I learned that I believe will help you if you’re looking for a full-time pastoral position in a local church:

1. Know your theology. One of the first questions two of the churches asked me was where I stood on certain theological issues. Good churches will want to know where you stand with your theology. They are looking to hire someone who lines up with their theology so it is vitally important you know where you stand. If your theology doesn’t match theirs, don’t waste your time or their time. Hopefully, you have studied theology in college and have a good understanding of where your stand, but make sure your ready to answer questions that are theological in nature. If the church is not concerned about your theology than it’s probably not a church worth talking to. Your theology will direct your ministry, so it is important that a church knows your theology. Before I go on let me explain something. Their are “closed handed” and “open-handed” issues. Usually, “open-handed” issues are things we can agree to disagree on and fellowship and worship together in humility. But when it comes to working on staff at a church, most churches will ask you to be on the same page with even the “open-handed” issuess. So when you step into an interview, make sure you know where you stand on the “closed-handed” issues as well as the “open-handed” issues.

2. Know the role your wife will play in the ministry. Every church I interviewed with asked me how my fiancee, soon to be wife, will fit into the ministry. They want to know how your wife will serve in the ministry. Some churches will expect your wife to play a vital role while other will not expect her to do too much. Determine before an interview that you are being hired for the position, not your wife. If she wants to play a big role in the ministry, great, but if she doesn’t, that is perfectly ok. In order to answer this question, spend some time talking to your wife about how she sees herself fitting in to your ministry. Allow her to serve where her strengths and passions lie. Then explain to the church how she will serve with you and what particular roles she will play. If your not married, realize most church will look to at candidates that are married first. Don’t get married just for ministry, but realize it’s an important asset to churches. One quick tip. Allow your wife to speak in the interview if she is present. Let her share her heart and passions for ministry. Churches not only want to hear you, but want to hear your other half.

3. Make sure your like the overall ministry of the church, not just the particular area your looking to serve in. I am looking for a student pastor position so I looked very closely at their students and how the church views student ministry. It is important to make sure you like where the church is going with the ministry area or applying for, but make sure you like the church overall. Don’t take the job if you are falling asleep during the Sunday morning worship servive. Don’t take the job if you don’t feel like you will get spiritually feed by the preaching. Don’t take the job if you feel like your wife and children don’t like the the ministries that are geared towards them. I look at it this way, find a job at a church you would attend if you didn’t get a job there. Would you enjoy the Sunday services if you wasn’t the student pastor? Would you send your children to the children’s ministry if you didn’t work for the church? Find a church that ministers to your personally.

These are just a few of the things I learned this past week. I hope they help you as you are looking for that position or will help you encourage someone who is currently looking. At the end of the day, God is sovereign and will lead you to the right place and position. Pray and ask God for guidance and discernment as you look for that perfect position.

3 Ways Student Pastors Can Bring Theology Back

If you are keeping up with student ministries blogs and articles, you might have ran across The Christian Post article called “Youth Ministry-Theology is Back” that was posted a few days ago. If not, click here to read that entire article. In the article, Greg Stier, head of Dare 2 Share Ministries, says that student ministry leaders are looking for more strategic ways to reach students and they are realizing “the importance of theology and making sure teenagers not only understand but also embrace their Christian faith.”

Barna has found that “three out of every five young Christians (59%) disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age 15.” What is interesting about this statistic is these 59% of students are leaving before they even graduate high school! I believe the reason we are seeing students leave church (and their faith) either during high school or right after is because student ministry has been nothing short of “glorified babysitting” rather than training students to become mature followers of Christ. When we lower student ministry down to games, entertainment, and fun (which are all good things that have their place) we will loose students because they don’t really want that, they have plenty of it! What they want is something real, something authentic, something that can change their life! That is why theology MUST come back in student ministry! Good theology based on God’s inspired Word will change students, grow students, and produce life-long followers of Christ out of our students. 

All of this starts with the student pastors and fellow leaders. If we want to see theology really come back in student ministry the student pastors must lead the way. Everything rises and falls on leadership. Here are three practical ways student pastors can bring theology back to student ministry:

1. Study Theology. I am not saying every student pastor needs to have a theology degree or they need to go back to college and get one, but I do believe every student pastor should be learning and growing in their knowledge of Biblical theology. Student pastors, you are just as much of a pastor as your senior pastor. We expect senior pastors to know theology and study it so why should we not expect student pastors to know and study it? It may do some student pastors good to put down the latest “student ministry philosophy” book and pick up systemic theology. Theology is all about God! As we study theology, we will learn more about God and our Savior Jesus Christ! As we do this, we will become better student pastors.

2. Teach Theology. Students need to learn theology. I believe the main reason students leave their churches (and their faith) after high school is because they have not been taught why they believe what they believe. They have not really learned the faith they claim. Unfortunately, that leads many students to just “profess” their faith and leave our student ministries after high school never really “possessing” their faith. After student pastors study theology they must then teach it to their students. I’m not against teaching on “social issues” or relevant issues, but the best thing we can do for students is to teach expositionally through the Scripture. That is where we find theology and that is what students need!

3. Live Theology. This might sound like a “duh!” statement, but there is nothing worse than a leader who has studied theology, taught theology, then goes out and lives a life that doesn’t match up with that theology. Students want to see their leader (and leaders) live out the theology they teach. That means that we as student pastors and leaders must “look carefully how we walk” (Eph. 5:15) because our students are watching. Fellow student pastors, as we study theology and teach theology, lets be careful to live it out in front of our students. Students need leaders who are real and living out their faith.

I hope you do not think I am bashing modern student ministry. I am extremely encouraged and excited about the way student ministry seems to be going. It seems that more student pastors and leaders are seeing that students want to learn the Bible and are not happy with the “status quo” student ministry. Students want t change the world and we owe them good theology to make that happen!