5 Uncommon Qualities To Look For In Your Next Ministry Hire
Hiring your next church staff member is a long process requiring huge amounts of diligence and discernment. Interviewing candidates, evaluating resumes, and communicating with your congregation all factor into finding the best fit for your staff. While some candidates may stand out in this process, it's important to have a few bottom line characteristics you know your congregation and church staff need.
Assuming that your potential candidates have the experience you're looking for and that the character and chemistry boxes are checked, here are the five often overlooked qualities to seek in your next ministry hire.
1. They have a track record of persevering through difficult circumstances.
The best candidate will have shown the ability to work through challenges, learn how to get along with difficult people, and navigate hard situations over the long haul. When interviewing candidates, you want to know whether they are the kind of people who push gracefully but firmly through barriers or if they are the kind of person that tends cut and run when things get tough.
While there are many legitimate reasons why someone might have one or two short stays in previous ministry positions (and you should find out what those reasons were), if there’s a pattern of leaving a role when things get difficult, it's likely they either haven’t learned how to confront and lead their way through change or haven't gained the necessary wisdom that comes from sticking with something challenging for a long time.
2. They can talk openly about previous failures.
One question I ask in every interview is, “Tell me about something you attempted to do that just didn’t work out the way you planned. What happened? What did you learn? How has it changed the way you do ministry or life?”
A candidate recently told me about discovering a mistake he had made with the churches finances. It wasn’t lack of ethics or even negligence, but he ended up having to resign over the error. He was able to articulate in very clear terms how that failure had changed his view of himself, humbled him, and made him more diligent in his future work. Few people who accomplish great things have never experienced significant failure in their lives at some point.
3. They have sought out wise people who regularly speak into their lives.
Another question I like to ask in interviews is, “Who are your mentors? Who speaks into your life, challenges you, encourages you, and holds you accountable?” If they can’t answer that question quickly with at least one or two specific names of their mentors, it’s definitely a yellow “proceed with caution” flag.
Having a mentor, especially one that the candidate sought out for him/herself, suggests that they are a learner, willing to seek help when they need it and listen to advice from trusted sources.
4. They are a problem solver.
One of our previous clients here at Vanderblomene once put it this way: “I don’t mind if someone brings me a problem, but they better have at least a couple of potential solutions that they bring along with it.”
The best candidates have a track record of confronting problems that they may have never seen before, identifying the core issues, and strategizing several paths that can be taken to overcome the issue. They are open to getting input from others because they want to find the best solution rather than just any solution.
Great candidates are more interested in solving the problem than casting blame.
5. They play well with others.
People should enjoy being around your potential church staff hires. Your candidates should add energy to the team rather than drain it. They should know how to address conflict in healthy ways. In my interviews with candidates, I’m always trying to find out about the health of their relationships both with their current team as well as with people in their community.
It’s true that in the marketplace, there might be room for the occasional "Steve Jobs-type" whose genius is so unique that he could get away with anything, but that really will not work in a ministry setting. It doesn’t matter if the person is a supremely gifted worship leader, preacher, or administrator, if they can’t get along with the staff and volunteers that they need to work with week in and week out, the organization is headed for problems.
While no two searches are the same, I hope these five qualities will help narrow your search so that you find the best fit for your church.
What are some qualities that your church needs in your next hire?
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