Monday, May 18, 2009

Interview about placement and transition

My friend Doug e-mailed me earlier this week and asked if he could interview me (via e-mail) about my candidacy and transition experience. I was happy to oblige-- and happy also to post the interview here. Here's the first part; the second part will follow in a few days.

1. Briefly describe your experience of candidating for jobs in the PCA

I approached candidating from several angles-- through networking, using many of the available lists of opportunities, and through cold-calling Presbytery clerks and committee chairs to inquire about opportunities they might know of. All of these produced at least some usable results. I followed every viable lead that I was able to-- which probably amounted to well over 50, maybe as many as 75 opportunities that I explored at some level.

I explored opportunities of many types: Senior, Solo, and Associate/Assistant Pastor roles; foreign missions; campus ministry; educational ministry; para-church ministry. I cast an ever-widening net as time went on, while maintaining focus on Senior and Solo Pastor opportunities the whole time.

From start to finish, it took me about 9 months to complete placement. During that time, I moved beyond "first steps" (initial contact, sending resume, etc.) with about two dozen churches; I completed some level of interview-like interaction with about 10; I made the "short list" for four; I visited two in-person, and both took a congregational vote about whether to call me as Pastor. Obviously, the last one voted in favor of doing so.

2. What surprised you about the process?

I might be the wrong guy to ask that question to, because I have done a lot of study, research, and writing about candidacy and placement-- so very little came as a surprise to me, even when it might have for others.

The one thing that stands out as a surprise was how emotionally and spiritually taxing the process was. In spite of my awareness of the difficulties, I nevertheless occasionally found myself overwhelmed with a sense of defeat and despaired of the process ever producing a positive result. During these times, the support of my wife and of my close friends (with whom I was in regular contact about my progress) as my "burden-bearers" was vital for me; had it not been for them, I may have given up.

3. What went easier / harder that expected?

A number of things were harder than I expected. Exercising patience for a process that I knew would take a long time. Spending day after day scouring lists and making first contact with opportunities. Starting from scratch on one day, because the day before a church that I thought I would get a call to ministry from told me they were going with someone else. These are just a few.

If anything, what was easier than I expected was how things fell into place with the church that I serve. Almost nothing about the candidacy process with them was difficult-- it was plain and straightforward from the start, and it was clear from the start that this was a good fit (both to me and to them). That doesn't mean that this part will be easy for others, of course-- but it was easier, at least, for me.

4. How many places did you apply before getting your current position?

As I mentioned before, I made at least initial inquiry with a lot of places-- probably between 50 and 75.

5. How many places did you interview before getting your current position?

I had about half a dozen phone interviews, and a second phone interview with maybe four of those. I interviewed in-person with two, including the church that called me. (It's worth noting that the church that called me did not do a phone interview.)

Additionally, I did some form of "on-paper interview" with probably two dozen churches. They'll often send a questionnaire or application form that they have customized to bring answers to questions they believe to be the most important. These are more like interviews than they are anything else.

6. What are some helpful tips you would give to someone about to enter the process?

I would say the following:
~Start early and work hard
~Focus on making contact with opportunities through people you know
~Be prepared for a long and difficult process
~Be willing to open yourself up to a diverse range of opportunities
~Remind yourself often that your dignity, value before the Father, and eternal security as His son are not dependent upon this process

7. What was the process like for your wife?

It was hard-- without a doubt, it was probably harder for her than me in some ways. For one, she was left with a greater sense of being out of control in the process (which is a myth anyway, since none of us is in control of it!), which probably increased her anxiety about the future.

It was also very good for our marriage and family life, in some ways. We came to cherish the time we had to worship together, since we knew that there would be a day soon-coming when I would not be in the pew beside them on Sundays. We had a greater sense of dependence on one another, and mutually on the Lord, during our candidacy time than probably before or since.

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