In 16 years as a full-time children’s pastor, I have done some interviewing in my time, and I have also interviewed many potential staff members. Along the way, I have compiled a list of some of the most important questions- essential questions- to ask very early on in the interview process. Admittedly, these questions are most relevant to family/children’s ministry candidates, but I truly hope that anyone interviewing can find some of these topics helpful.
Here are a few questions you NEED to ask and have carefully answered BEFORE you accept a ministry position:
1.Is this church looking for a Children’s Pastor or children’s leader/administrator? Before accepting the position you should know if the job description is for a pastor, an administrator or a bit of both. Make sure to ask for a copy of the job description! When I look through children’s pastor/director job descriptions I see many terms (buzz words) like “cutting edge” “relational” “team player” “family minister” “creative” “leader of leaders” “self-starter who can hit the ground running” “not a one man (or woman) show”. More and more churches, especially larger churches, are looking for more of an administrator to head up their programs for children’s ministry instead of a pastor. The sheer volume of details involved with coordinating that many children need a “Joseph” (or several of them) with a lot of wisdom and great organization. What is the difference really? Which one does your church really need or want to hire? Which one are YOU? Here’s how to tell:
Children’s Pastor: Provides leadership, vision, strategy, recruitment, coordinates teams of volunteers and parents. Has a background/training in pastoral work/studies. The position or role is a pastoral role. As a pastor, this person baptizes, visits homes and hospitals etc- has a pastoral ministry calling.
Children’s Director: This person is more on the administrative side of things. Usually, a previous children’s pastor or the current lead pastor or pastoral leadership team have already provided the vision and direction for the children’s department, and the children’s director is the “person in the trenches” carrying out that plan. The Children’s Director typically does NOT have a background in pastoral ministry but may be very gifted in organization, networking, and communication.
Many positions are a mix of both of the above. It is absolutely CRUCIAL that your understanding of your role is CRYSTAL clear BEFORE you sign on the dotted line and step into that ministry. Expectations MATTER. If your church is expecting a children’s “pastor” but you do not ever want to do baby dedications, baptisms, kid’s worship etc- you may have an awkward clash of expectations. Or if, your church THOUGHT they wanted a visionary, strong leader and communicator/children’s pastor, but what they REALLY wanted was a very organized administrator to carry on all of the programs that the former children’s pastor had instituted, this is going to lead to problems.
2. Are you looking for someone to provide vision or to carry out a pre-existing vision? If this position is a “director” position, managing a pre-existing vision, who came up with the vision, and who is setting that vision now? (former children’s pastor, senior leader, Family Life Director, a curriculum?).
3.Who chooses the curriculum we use? Am I locked into the current one? If so, for how long? Who would have to approve a curriculum change?
4. What is your church’s policy on providing childcare for events? Would I be responsible for recruiting/providing childcare for church events? How many events are there per month?
5. Does the church do evangelism/outreach? (not all do!!) What and how many outreaches and serving opportunities does the church do and how would I be involved?
6. What expectations would the church have for my spouse/children?
7. What is the typical work schedule/hours for staff members?
8. What is the senior leader’s vision for the children’s department? (this is crucial because his/her vision for that area is automatically YOUR vision, which you must uphold and defend. If you accept that position, the senior leader’s vision is what you will be working to bring to life! You have to be 100 percent on board with that vision.
9. What is the church’s official position on women in ministry? This is good to know whether you are a male or female applicant. A male worship pastor friend of mine was shocked when the church did not support his wife going for credentials.
10. How many staff members have they had (total in all areas) come in and go out over the past 3 years? If there was a huge turnover at one point, what was the reason?
11. What were the circumstances of the last children’s leader’s departure? May I speak with the former leader (I highly recommend it).
12. Who would I be directly reporting to? (Ie. If I have a problem or a question, will I go to the senior leader or a family life director or elder??). What you are really asking is, who is your boss on a day to day basis? You may adore the lead pastor, but really have a rough experience reporting to and working with his wife/sister/uncle/etc.
Our God is good at handling big transitions. Scripture is full of big changes. Let’s trust the Lord of these ministry changes while attempting to handle them with wisdom and sensitivity. Then we can truly get excited about what God wants to do in that new ministry position! What questions do you wish YOU had asked when interviewing for a new position? What issues should we be talking through during the interview process?