Excerpts From The Experts: Interviewing And Hiring Tips


In this series, Excerpts from the Experts: Interviewing and Hiring Tips, we approach those well-versed in human resource practices in ministry (and sometimes, in general). This week we continue our series with Tim Stevens, Executive Pastor of Granger Community Church and author of Vision: Lost and Found.

Q: What's your role at GCC, and how long have you been responsible for hiring people?

TS: I'm the Executive Pastor and have been at GCC for 17 years. In both this job, and my previous work (where I stayed for 9 years), I have been heavily involved in hiring. I'm guessing I've hired a couple hundred people in the past 26 years.

Q: It's easy to go online and read about how to excel during a church interview. However, this may produce a better "interviewee" than "employee." What advice do you have for someone who's received the call back for a church interview?

TS: Take a breath. Be yourself. I'm suspect of a prospective employee who doesn't ask questions. You need to dig in to the culture and environment a bit. Ask if you can talk to other employees. If they don't let you, then run to the hills and don't look back. Find a place where they allow you to learn about the culture from people at all levels of the organization.

Q: Hiring someone takes a good amount of courage and intuition. What are some best practices you've implemented as you evaluate potential candidates?

TS: Don't skip the step of talking to references—even if you've known the person you are about to hire for 20 years. Ask references, "Who else do you know who knows Johnny really well?" Talk to them to. Sometimes you get the best holistic view when you talk to references from references. Hiring from inside the organization has been our hallmark, and has given us stability, unity and a loyalty to the mission and vision. When you are serving alongside a volunteer for years, you get to see their strengths and weaknesses, watch their faithfulness, know their vulnerabilities. Plus, they are rooted in your community (which is important when you live in the snow belt).

Group interviews are crucial. I can't see everything, so I always invite very insightful people into church interviews. They may not be "positionally" the right people in the room—but they are full of discernment and intuition and can help me make an informed decision. I never make an employment decision with just women in the room—or just men in the room. Diversity of gender and age in the group interviews will yield a better decision.

Q: Let's say you've made a poor hiring decision. In your opinion, what's the best way to address this which honors both the organization and the employee?

TS: We always say, "Let's err on the side of grace" when we are letting someone go. That means we protect their dignity. The whole world doesn't need to know what we know. It also means we are generous with severance. We once let someone go for embezzling, yet we blessed their family by giving them more money in a severance package. It doesn't make sense from a business sense—but it does when you are trying to be redemptive in your decisions.

Q: And just for fun...What's the most shocking answer a candidate has ever given you during a chuch interview?

TS: The most shocking came from the wife of a person we were interviewing. This happened in the meeting where we gave them the offer to join our staff. She asked, "How many hours will he be working?" We talked about that for a bit, thinking that she might be concerned if he's not home enough to help around the house with the babies. Quite the contrary. She said, "I just want to make sure he's at the office a lot, because he kind of gets in the way when he's home." We were stunned!