8 Questions Interviewees Should Ask

Many churches are hiring as the start of a new school year approaches, and youth workers are getting ready to candidate. For many youth workers there are always obvious questions heading into these interviews: what should I ask the church? Are there certain questions I should ask? Are there questions I shouldn’t bring up?

Today, my desire is to provide you with some questions that I believe every youth worker should ask as they prepare to take on a new role. Not all of these questions are easy nor will they necessarily be comfortable, but asking them will better prepare you in discerning if this is where God is calling you.

1. Why is the position open?

Sometimes in our excitement of being brought in to interview we forget to consider why there is an opening to begin with. It could be that the former person left under amicable terms or moved into a new role. Or the potential exists that the previous person was let go, left on poor terms, or did something wrong. Knowing this gives you insight into the church, its leadership, and the student program, which will better prepare you to serve and minister to them.

2. What are the expectations for this position?

Sometimes the written versus desired expectations of the church are different. Asking this question will help you to discern what is most important to the church, the position, and to the ministry. When you know the unwritten expectations you are able to step back and assess whether or not you can meet them and if you are the right fit for the position.

3. What are the expectations for my spouse?

This is a big question that should always be asked by married interviewees. Some churches believe that in hiring one spouse, the couple comes as a shared package. That isn’t true unless they are paying both of you for your time. Your spouse should be empowered to engage with the church in the ways they are gifted. If it’s student ministry, fantastic. If it’s leading elsewhere, praise God. Regardless, a church should never expect your spouse to work for free regardless of rationale.

4. Are there any sacred cows I need to be aware of?

Churches all value different things at varying degrees of importance. You may come from a background where methodology of communion wasn’t important, but the church you are interviewing at may only do intinction. Imagine the awkwardness that would come about if you lead communion in the “wrong” manner. This can be avoided by simply asking a question and seeking to understand what the church values. Asking this question doesn’t guarantee that you’ll find out all of the things that are valued, but it will give you an inside look to understand and discern what is important to this church body.

5. What does the salary and benefits package look like?

We aren’t always willing to ask this during an interview because it feels presumptuous and a bit prideful. But it is important for you to know what the church is offering to see if it is actually a livable wage and something that will not only provide for you and your family but also afford you the option to save.

6. Are you willing to negotiate?

We don’t often think in this way when it comes to serving in churches because we allow our calling to say we will give more than we are paid. While having a servant’s heart is a great quality, your time, effort, and work ethic are worthy of a proper salary. So be willing to counter an offer and ask for changes to the package. Don’t be greedy, but know that you have value. A great comparison is to research what local teachers make and compare the package you are offered to ones they receive.

7. How do you and how will you measure success for this position?

This is a great question to ask because it prepares you for how you will lead. One church may measure success by the number of attendees while another measures it by baptism and still another by simply maintaining the status quo. When you have this answer not only will you have clarity on where the ministry is desired to go, you will also be able to discern if this is in line with how you view ministry and success within ministry.

8. How many hours a week am I expected to work?

Many churches will offer a salaried position, to which many people default to understanding as a forty hour work week. But for some churches that isn’t the case. I have worked for churches where you are paid for forty hours but they want upwards of sixty hours a week. Be cautious with this mentality. A church should care about you and your family’s overall health, and if you aren’t spending time with them and having adequate downtime, you cannot be an effective leader in ministry. Our priorities should be our relationship with God, our relationship with our spouse, our relationship with our family, and then our relationship with our church and jobs.

What are some questions that you have found helpful to ask in the interview process?

Tips for New Youth Pastors [Part 2]

Last week we took a look at some general tips for anyone starting a new youth pastor position. However, given that we are currently trying to do ministry during a pandemic this can look very different depending on where you serve. With safe guards in place and new requirements coming up frequently, it is important to address different ways of engaging with your students, families, and leaders in this new normal.

This week I want to share some helpful tips for those starting during this season that apply to a more socially-distanced style of ministry.

Coordinate digital meetups.

I know that many people hate video calls at this point and that Zoom-fatigue is setting in. But try hosting meetups online where people can come and get to know you. If you are doing it for students, try to engage with them outside of the normal meet and greet flow. Have some online games, utilize prizes (digital gift cards are awesome, especially if you can get them to local stores/restaurants), set up a digital scavenger hunt, or have people come in costume. All of these will help engage students who may not be super willing to jump into another Zoom session.

Increase your online presence.

Most youth workers have social media, but if you are like me… your personal feeds may be lacking. I don’t post often, and my students let me know. Even students who I don’t know personally have told me I need to up my Insta game.

My point? Students see us in all capacities, whether in person or online, and they are watching us. A great way to help students get to know is by posting about yourself. Not in some egotistical way, but in a way that shows who you are. Post pictures of your spouse and family doing things together, post where you are going or what you are doing especially if it is in town, host AMAs (Ask Me Anything) and polls in your stories, ask for advice on what to do and where to go. These are just a few ways to help you engage with others.

Utilize your youth group’s social media.

Depending on the size of your church and youth group, you may have social media accounts set up for your youth group. If so, leverage that to help people get to know you. Post about who you are and share some fun facts. Host a “get to know the youth pastor session” on your youth group’s pages. Post fun and funny videos of you getting acclimated to your new work environment. Post “Trivia Thursdays” and whoever answers the most questions correctly wins a digital gift card. Ask questions through a poll on your social media page or story.

Here are some easy questions to utilize in a post or story:

  • What would you like to see this coming year?
  • What series or topics would you like to have covered?
  • What is one thing you would like to see changed?
  • What is your favorite memory from youth group?
  • Why do you come to youth group?
  • What worship songs would you like us to play?
  • What would encourage your friends to come?
  • What games would you like to play online or in-person?

Send a note or postcard.

This will depend on the size of your youth group, but consider sending students a little hand written note introducing yourself, sharing about a digital meetup, and saying how excited you are to meet them. Receiving an actual letter or postcard is a sure way to connect with a student and their family as they will see you taking an interest in their student’s life.

If you serve in a large youth group and this isn’t a feasible option, consider sending a handwritten note to all your leaders. Your students will be looking to their leaders to get a feel for the new youth pastor, and if they have a good feeling for you it will be replicated to their students. It is also a sure fire way to value and elevate your leaders.

How have you seen ministry succeed during this time? What have been “wins” for your ministry?

Tips for New Youth Pastors [Part 1]

Even in the present state of things–with COVID-19 and certain states being under “stay at home” orders–churches are still hiring. Some are even hiring “online pastors” because of the current realities affecting ministries. That means that there are many people who are applying and being hired at churches.

Being hired at a new church is challenging on its own, but then you add in this new mix of social distancing and trying to connect electronically, and it is increasingly difficult. So what do we do?

Today, I would like to provide some tips and suggestions for new youth pastors in any season and then next week my desire will be to share tips for new youth pastors in our current circumstances. I would love to dialogue with anyone on this topic, especially those of you who are starting fresh in this new season.

Ask questions.

This is huge because it will give you insight you may not have had before. Often when you candidate you don’t get to meet everyone and you don’t get to have all the conversations that you may need. So ask questions. Talk to your students and ask them what they would want to see at youth group. Ask them what they value and desire. Ask what would encourage their friends to come. Engage with parents and ask them what resources would be helpful. Ask how you could better partner with and support them. Ask how you can better care for their students. Talk to your volunteers and ask them how you could better equip them. Ask them how they have been trained in the past and what would help them going forward. Ask them how you could best support, advocate for, and walk with them.

These questions and answers will give you insight into how to best care for your people and ultimately make you a better pastor. Asking questions, investing in people’s lives, and being willing to be challenged will help you to develop as a leader and value those you serve.

Listen.

I think it is easy at times to come in and think we know what to do and how to do it. I don’t think this is out of pride or arrogance but out of a desire to show that we know what we are doing and prove to the church who hired us that they made the right choice. But often times that means we don’t listen well or heed advice. Let me encourage you to take time and listen to what others are saying and to value it.

This will also allow for you to learn about any so-called “sacred cows” that exist. These are things that are immensely important to the church, that are difficult or impossible to change. While you candidate, most churches will tell you that they don’t have one. All churches do, but sometimes leaders don’t even know they exist. By listening to people you will hear what they value and why they value it, which will help you to learn what is the “sacred cow” within the ministry and the church at large.

Engage with students, leaders, families, and church members.

This seems obvious because of what we do. We are pastors after all and part of our job is to engage with our people. But the truth is that sometimes it can be overwhelming in the beginning. Everyone wants to talk to the new pastor, everyone wants to know your plans for the ministry, everyone has their own ideas and agendas.

It can be taxing and draining, and there will be moments you may find yourself mentally disconnecting from conversations. Don’t allow that to happen. Engage with people and hear what they have to say. Be willing to value people and their thoughts. By doing this, it will allow for you to become more attune with what people are seeking from you, your ministry, and the church. This can allow for you to become a better minister to them.

Go out into the community.

I think this is one that we all know and value, but if we are honest when we move to a new place sometimes we focus on settling in. That doesn’t mean we don’t care about our new community and the people in it, but sometimes we just hunker down as we settle into our role. But let me encourage you to engage with the community as much as you can. Go to the local supermarket, check out the local middle school or high school football game, visit local restaurants, hit up local parks. By doing this you are not only gaining the lay of the land, you are also showing that you are a part of the community and value it. You may even have church members stop and greet you which will help you build relationships.

Network.

This is a huge asset to anyone in any position, but if I am being honest it doesn’t happen enough in ministry. Youth workers are beginning to change that, and I want to encourage you to be a part of a local network as best you can. As you start in a new position, reach out to other youth pastors in the area and seek to grab coffee or lunch with them. Talk to them about what has worked for them, ask questions about the community and the area, be willing to partner with them for the sake of the Gospel. In doing all of this you are building friendships, confidantes, and support networks to help you succeed in your ministry.

Share your purpose and vision.

This is huge for any new youth pastor. In a new ministry it is easy to assume that everyone knows what you are about and the direction you want to take the ministry. But the reality is that there will be those who don’t, and those who need to continue to hear it over and over. While you have had the time to think through and plan because of the hiring process, other people need time to hear, process, and jump on board. So make sure to drip this into all of your communications and to share it with families, students, leaders, and church staff.

Over communicate.

Communication is key. That is something everyone should remember, and in a new position it is important to make sure you communicate often and clearly. Make sure to engage with your leaders, students, and families and use that time to communicate what you want them to hear. Do not assume that if you say it once or twice everyone will remember what you said. Over communicate not because people don’t get it, but because it helps them to be on the same page with you.

Empower your volunteers.

Your volunteers are key to your ministry growing and being sustained. Without them your ministry will not function. So make sure to encourage and empower them. Let leaders utilize their gifts and strengths. Encourage them when you see them doing what God has gifted them to do. Be free with your role and allow leaders to step up and serve. One of the things I love to do is be open with the stage. I don’t have to speak each week, in fact my students listen more when their leaders share. This is huge because it allows for multiple voices to be heard and valued, and it affirms and builds up leaders who are using their gifts. Find out your leaders’ strengths and passions and put them into practical use.

Set boundaries.

This is hugely important for all pastors and youth workers. Often we jump into a new position and we go as hard and as fast as we can. We go to all the events, attend all the meetings, work long hours, throw awesome outreaches, and begin to burn through all the reserves that we have.

This type of approach may work in the beginning, but ultimately it will leave you exhausted and burned out. It will also frustrate your volunteers and hurt your relationship with your family. You need to make sure that you are taking care of yourself and putting your priorities in order. Often we think the ministry comes first, but the reality is the order should be our relationship with God, our relationship with our family, and then our relationship with the ministry. Setting and enforcing boundaries allows us to focus on priorities, take care of ourselves, and be present for others. 

If you are starting at a new church, what questions do you have? If you are helping a church look for a new candidate, what do you look for?