by Greg Anderson –
In the previous three posts in this series, we explored possibilities you may wish to consider as you move from the initial “we’re interested in you are you interested in us?” conversation to the full search team and ﬁnal church leadership interview.
Assuming all has gone well and you and the church are convicted this is the future God is calling you both to live into and an invitation is extended to you to be the church’s next minister – what next? The purpose of this post is to bring a handful of recommendations to your conscious awareness as you navigate these ﬁnal conversations. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so think in terms of principles – not absolutes.
Predecessor Conversations – By this time, your current leadership should already be aware of your conversations with the new church. If you have not informed your entire leadership, you should at a minimum conﬁde in a leader you trust. These conversations must be bathed in prayer. You don’t want to come across as money hungry, or appear as someone using an open position to secure your current position. Hopefully, your current leadership is focused on the kingdom more than a kingdom outpost, so our prayer is they will be supportive of what’s best for the church universal, for your family, and for doors of opportunity to share the good news. There is always a chance that your leaders will respond immaturely, but a prayer-ﬁlled, heartfelt conversation is likely to yield a more positive outcome than a “didn’t see that coming” surprise.
The Oﬀer – Generally, an oﬀer with a cover letter will be extended in writing for your consideration. It’s possible you will have a conversation that will be codiﬁed and emailed to you within 24 hours or so. Regardless, never say, “Yes” in the meeting in which the oﬀer occurs. Respond with, “I am so humbled by your prayers and this invitation. I would love to take 3-4 more days and prayerfully process this with my wife (and/or closest friends) and will respond in writing at that time. If you are pushed for an immediate response –beware. You could be witnessing an example of how a leadership forces decisions. Generally, leaders will respond positively to a season of prayer request, so do not be afraid to ask for it. The key however, is using the time to actually pray and process!
Countering – Many church leaders have experience in business at the executive or professional level. As a result, they are aware of job oﬀer expectations and will not be surprised if you ask for contract revisions. It is critical that you keep the following in mind – you will not get a second chance to revise the contract. Here are some questions that can help you process if the contract allows you enough margin to minister eﬀectively:
- Does the oﬀer clearly deﬁne job expectations and responsibilities? If there is no job description, then how can you know the job you are being hired to do? How can you have clear expectations? If one doesn’t exist, indicate you will not accept the position until one is complete. You may volunteer to help write it, but regardless of how it is developed – just make sure it is!
- Is the compensation package reasonable? It is somewhat diﬃcult to deﬁne “reasonable” since that varies from context to context. For instance, $70,000 per year is worth a lot more in Nashville, Tennessee, than it is in Los Angeles, California. Use websites like city-data.com to check median incomes in the region. Are you being asked to make a lateral income move or take a pay cut? Have you developed comparison budget sheets? Are you moving from a state that has no state income tax to a state that does? No one is in local ministry to get wealthy, but the truth is – if you and your family encounter ﬁnancial stress – the ramiﬁcations can be devastating.
- Are you allowed margin for kingdom work and personal development? Many churches like the idea of their minister being a resource beyond the local church. Others do not. They key is to negotiate that expectation on the front end. If the contract does not spell out the number of days you are allowed out, then make sure those are added. The same is true for vacation time, continuing education time, writing time, etc. Keep in mind, future leaders will not have access to conversations, but they can read a job contract. Make sure everything is in writing and make sure you keep a signed copy in your ﬁles.
- What about continuing education? You may be ﬁnished with school, but if not, is the church oﬀering you ﬁnancial help or a time allowance to pursue your dreams? If you are ﬁnished with school, are you oﬀered travel expenses to conferences? Are funds provided for your spouse to accompany you?
- What about retirement, sick leave, personal days, vacation time, etc.? Analyzing such details is not fun, but it is necessary if you want to set yourself and your ministry up for long-term success. Do not be afraid to reach out to two or three friends in ministry in other contexts and ask them to prayerfully review the oﬀer and your counter.Keep in mind, future leaders will not have access to conversations, but they can read a job contract. Make sure everything is in writing and make sure you keep a signed copy in your ﬁles.
- Have you thoroughly vetted the church? Sometimes, it is easy to see what we want to see, so be vigilant. Have you read the church’s core values and more importantly, do you agree with them? Is there a hidden statement of faith out there somewhere? Are the leaders really leading or are they controlled by a hidden minority? You must know the answer to these types of questions before running headlong into a church that looks healthy on the outside but is struggling within. If the church has not been open about its victories and defeats – them someone is not representing the whole picture.
If the church provides an oﬀer that covers every detail imaginable and you are convicted this is the job for you – then great! Congrats and enjoy your new job. However, if the oﬀer is missing a few key elements, do not be afraid to state your needs. If the leadership agrees, then again, congratulations are in order! If they refuse, then this could be a sign worth paying attention to. For instance, if no help with moving expenses is oﬀered and you ask for those expenses to be covered, then in essence the leadership is saying, “We are not willing to invest in starting you oﬀ on solid footing.”
Remember, the job is not yours until you sign the dotted line.