Transitions Through the Eyes of the Candidate – The First Official Conversation

by Greg Anderson –


In the previous post in this series, we explored possibilities related to a candidate’s initial response to an inquiry from a search team member from a church that is looking to hire a minister. We encouraged you to pause and take a deep breath, prayerfully process if the Holy Spirit is leading you to consider additional conversations, prepare your heart and mind, practice spiritual disciplines as you discern and plan your response to the inquiring church accordingly.

As you work through those steps and you and your wife or you and your closest friends co-discern that God has you right where He wants you – then great! You do not need to agonize over your response. You can offer a heartfelt, yet concise reply along the lines of, “I truly appreciate you reaching out to me. I am honored you considered me for the position. However, I am convinced God has me where he wants me. Please let me know if there is any way I can serve you in the future.”

When you offer a response like this, you may get some resistance. Stand your ground. Be polite. At the same time, do not hesitate to say with conviction, “Thanks, but no thanks.” No matter what happens, never raise your voice or use condescending or arrogant tone or language. God may not have you in mind for this particular work, but He may plan to use you later in the life of that church. “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17).

…be brutally honest with why you are interested in the conversation. If you are intrigued by the possibility because things are not going as well as you hoped in your current work, how much of what is not going well is on you?

As you work through the steps mentioned in the previous posts and you and your wife or you and your closest friends co-discern that God is calling you to explore possibilities, it will then be appropriate for you to ready yourself for the first formal conversation. Keep in mind; your first “formal conversation” will most likely be preceded by an informal conversation. This varies from one search process to another, so as you prayerfully prepare for one or the other, the following observations may prove useful.

First, be brutally honest with why you are interested in the conversation. If you are intrigued by the possibility because things are not going as well as you hoped in your current work, how much of what is not going well is on you? Are you easy to work with? Do you have the heart of a servant? Do you genuinely love people? Did God call you to your current work, and if so, how did you experience that calling? Do you see similar signs of God’s leading as you contemplate a transition? In other words, is the Lord genuinely stirring your heart? Or, do you see a pattern? Go somewhere – stay a few years – things start to unravel – you long for something better – you let some friends in ministry know you’re “looking” and voila – it’s time to move again. If this sounds familiar, then it might be wise to seek out the counsel of 2-3 seasoned mentors who can help you wade through the wisdom of making another move or help you face your fears and guide you through how to stay put in one place for many years.

Prepare only a handful of questions for this initial conversation; 3-4 at most. None of your initial questions should be about salary, benefits, vacation time, etc.

Also, it is wise to ask yourself, “Am I running from something?” If the answer is “yes” then what are you running from? Actually, there are times when God calls us to “run from.” For instance, if you are in a situation where the leadership is refusing to allow you to practice your gifts, then transitioning may actually be a godly response. However, if you’re running from your own insecurities, or if you are struggling with a temptation that you give into again and again and are naive enough to believe that a change in venue will lead to a change in behavior, then the last thing you need to do is rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic. Get help. Now. Don’t even read the rest of this post. Your family, your church, and YOU are too important to Jesus to remain captive to destructive patterns and compromised boundaries.
If your response passes the “brutal honesty and openness” test, and you decide to explore the possibilities, keep the following in mind:

  • Honor the follow up time you committed to. The smallest attention to detail in these very early stages sends a meta-message about your responsiveness and professionalism.
  • When preparing for the call, make sure you are in a distraction free environment. Don’t take a call while you’re driving, while you’re watching the baby, while your favorite team is playing, etc. Get in a quiet spot with a highly dependable phone connection.
  • Keep your answers concise. Do not go off on tangents.
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t pretend like you do.
  • Prepare only a handful of questions for this initial conversation; 3-4 at most. None of your initial questions should be about salary, benefits, vacation time, etc. You will have plenty of time for more detailed questions as you move into further conversations.
  • Spend time on the church’s website prior to the call. If you are asked, “What do you think about our vision statement?” and you reply, “I don’t know what it is,” then you come across as someone who has not done his homework. If you truly believe God is calling you to this work, then you need to communicate that you are researching them just as much as they are researching you.
  • If the person who contacted you said, “We want to chat for about an hour?” then don’t wait until 55 minutes in to start asking questions you have prepared. If they ask, “What questions do you have?” and you see that the hour is almost up, then ask for permission to go over time. If the conversation runs really long, ask if it is ok to email your questions, or save them for a follow up conversation.
  • Take copious notes. If you are having a hard time hearing the caller, let him/her know. If they have a name that you do not understand, ask them to spell it out. Refer to them by name occasionally as you go through the conversation, e.g., “That’s a great question Robert.”We will continue this discussion next week.

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