This is part 5 of a blog series called Finding a Church Job.
You may not want to hear this, but you should volunteer first.
That’s right work for free and find a way to pay your bills working retail or busing tables. It isn’t glamorous, but that’s the point.
The church is a mess, leadership is dysfunctional, you would be following a legend or a train wreck, there is a reason they can’t find someone. Walking into an interview blind knowing nothing about the church is not a spot you want to be in.
When you volunteer first you get to try out the church for yourself and get a more accurate feel for the church and the community. You get to pick the place and context of ministry. It isn’t picked for you.
I don’t believe that every call to ministry that God puts on our lives has a specific place. If it does then ignore this, but if you don’t feel a call to a certain place you need to have some control over the situation as you look for something that is a good fit for you and the community.
Foot in the Door
Finding a church job is harder now than it was 20 years ago for two reasons. First the economic reality has changed and giving to churches and non-profits felt this first and will be the last to return to some sense of normal. Second is the positive trend of understaffed churches. A positive as pastors become more about equipping than doing, but a difficult reality for someone looking to start.
Volunteering gets your foot in the door. Serving at a church you resonate with becomes an extended interview. Other leaders can see you how you would fit and what you would bring to the community.
The relational aspect of hiring is primary for churches. Even if the church you serve at doesn’t have an opportunity, other like-minded churches in the denomination, brotherhood, or network might. When a church has an opening one of the first people they talk to are other pastors they have relationships with.
When you get a church job you will be leading volunteers, and leading volunteers is one of the most important and most overlooked aspect of ministry.
In spending time as a volunteer or unpaid intern you know what it is like to be a volunteer. You know first hand the frustration that comes when clarity and encouragement are absent. You know what gets volunteers excited about the task. You know the importance of communication that is concise. Most importantly you know what it is like to have a job and serve at a church.
You can speak to them because you have been them.
So if you are looking for a job and not finding any luck, go serve.
You weren’t called to a paycheck, you were called to ministry.