I am in the process of seeking a new call to a congregation. In my denomination, we must interview with
a committee composed of members from the congregation. I would love some interview tips from some
of the veterans. How do you prepare yourself? How do you relax? How much do you share from a personal
standpoint? Any tips would be great!
Seeking A Call
Jennifer has a lot of good thoughts:
I think your anticipatory questions will serve you well. I’d suggest that you find out as much as you can about the congregation prior to your interview. Checking their website, asking for some copies of past newsletters and a copy of the most recent annual report and the budget are good resources. Don’t hesitate to contact your higher governing body (if applicable) and speak with someone who knows the congregation well. Regarding how much personal information to share, I think there are some wonderful previous installments of Ask the Matriarch that address this very question. You may want to hunt through the archives for more wisdom!
Often committee members raise questions about relationships, marital status,or plans to start a family. Sometimes committees ask questions about expected length of tenure, as though we have crystal balls and can foresee the future! I try to remind myself that these kinds of questions are almost always about the congregation and/or a previous pastoral relationship, and rarely about me or any current candidate. Have they had a negative or a positive experience in the past? Are they trying to take the same path or a different one? What role does a partner or spouse have in the life of a congregation? I think that how one fields personal questions is very important and can set the tone for future discussions and one’s relationship with the congregation.
As someone who has interviewed for church positions as a single person and as later a married person (and as half of a clergy couple) I have tended to be pretty forthright and transparent, answering any questions that felt comfortable, and gently, humorously reminding a committee if they’re getting too personal, and asking them to clarify why the information is important to them. I’ve learned a lot from hearing what a committee’s expectations and biases or openness might be.
How to relax? Dress professionally, but in nothing that is uncomfortable or binding. Try to remember that you’re interviewing them just as much as they’re interviewing you. As you prayerfully discern whether God is calling you to a new place, recall that the committee is probably nervous and excited, too. Listen closely and feel free to pause a bit before responding to a question. Ask for clarification if you don’t understand a question. Be yourself!!!
Blessings as you find the best place to which God is calling you!Sunday's coming offers this helpful insight:
In my denomination, too we seek a call in a similar way.
If it helps: the last time I went through this I managed to alleviate the stress quite considerably by not thinking ‘I want this job, how do I get it? - but instead approaching it as a piece of consultancy. My task as consultant was to help this pastorate decide whether they wanted this woman for their next minister. I tried to put the fact that I was the woman in question to one side, and instead to take my knowledge of who I am and try to find out more about who they are and help them to decide whether there is a good match and a call from God.
It might sound a bit weird but it helped a lot. As it happened they DID call me (and it’s working out pretty well) - but if they hadn’t I would just have felt I had helped them reach the right decision and been happy to walk away without feeling bruised by the whole thing.
God be with you.
What about the rest of you? How have you prepared yourself for dialogue with a congregation? What have you learned from the process that might benefit our friend who is seeking a call? Please share your wisdom!
We have a number of good questions in the queue for the next few weeks (so don't fret if you've sent one and don't see it yet - it's coming!). As always, if you have a question you'd like the matriarchs to address, send it to email@example.com. Thanks!