The 5 Potential Troubles Of Applying Directly To A Church

The 5 Potential Troubles of Applying Directly to a Church.jpg

Every time we launch a new search, we will receive an email or two from our client letting us know that they’ve been approached about the position we are helping fill. This shouldn’t surprise me, but I always wonder why individuals try to skip out on the benefit of using an objective third-party in their job search. I’m sure there are several reasons, the most common being that they know someone on staff or want to have a personal connection with the church.

This makes perfect sense, but that approach (and others like it) fail to consider the trouble it could lead to. Here are the top 5 potential troubles when applying directly and attempting to bypass the search firm:

1. Job Security

This is by far the most important consideration to make when thinking of taking a new position. When job seekers apply directly to a church, they risk the churches contacting their current employers and jeopardizing their current roles – before they’ve even been considered.

Executive Search firms provide confidentiality for job seekers. What I’ve learned over the years is the church world is much smaller than people think. It is easy for a hiring pastor to call up a friend and get the scoop on a candidate (even though it may not be objective), and make a snap judgment. With a retained search firm, candidates don’t run that risk.

Note: Be careful using a search firm that doesn’t communicate clear expectations about confidentiality.


2. Missing Out on Related Opportunities

As many job seekers know, it is rare to find your next ministry position after your first application. When candidates approach a church directly, they will miss out on other opportunities that could be a closer match to what they are looking for. This is a huge benefit to using a search firm in the search process.

Though candidates seeking placement cannot hire us, it is our job to help churches find their best match. Every day, we look back over previously reviewed candidates and consider them for current openings. In fact, often these are the individuals who are placed at churches. 

3. Falling Through The Cracks

Most churches are not equipped to handle the flood of resumes that come in when they announce an opening. Many people want to be in vocational ministry; there are certainly more people interested than there are paid openings on church staff. Because of this, the hiring manager or committee chairperson is often flooded with resumes and emails regarding the opportunity. In the case of the hiring manager, they are typically overworked already (hence the need for a new hire) and will struggle to filter through all the resumes, let alone send back correspondence with each.

The committee chairperson is a volunteer who is also balancing work and home life in addition to the volunteer position on the search committee. This person likely doesn't yet have a great system for reading through and corresponding with the hundreds of applicants who are interested. The net result is that people, unintentionally, fall through the cracks.

Full disclosure: Before I came to work at Vanderbloemen, I applied to a large growing church. I made it past the introductory phone call, and had a face-to-face interview, which went well. After it was over, I waited a week and emailed to the person who interviewed me. No response. One week later, I called and left a voicemail. No response. I was not only hurt, but also upset. The pain of rejection is deep, but the pain of being ignored and forgotten is deeper. At least had I been rejected, I would have closure. Thankfully, I’ve healed from this. However, I’ve let my own experience influence how Vanderbloemen communicates to candidates – and continually improves our communication. We are always looking for ways to make this better.

4. Not Hearing Objective Feedback

Just as I never heard back, often candidates who apply directly wouldn’t hear why they were a mismatch from the church they’ve applied to (even after an interview). By using a search firm, if you advance to the later stages and get the opportunity to interview, you’ll have the chance to ask questions to an objective 3rd party – our consultants. The consultants have our clients in mind, and can give objective feedback on why you might or might not be the right fit for a particular opening. This feedback is invaluable because it may help you clarify your ministry direction.

5. Avoiding Awkward Conversations About Money

Even in the ministry world, there are few more potentially opportunity-derailing conversations than those that happen around salary. Salary negotiation is a delicate process because both sides are required to trust those that they don’t yet know. I’ve heard of pastors outright rejecting job offers because of salary and never finding out that the church was expecting to negotiate. And other times that both sides couldn’t come to terms because they thought the other was playing hard to get.

Without an objective third party, there is no one to bring the candidate and the church back to the table to discuss. Search firms can step into the middle and mediate these conversations, so that no one gets gouged, and everyone ends up a winner.

Have you experienced a difficult process when applying directly to a church?

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