Once a ministry candidates’ education and/or training is complete, the truly daunting task begins: seeking the ministries to which one will apply.
If a person is serious about ministry, it is likely that he or she will not want to apply just anywhere. Selecting churches to where God might be calling you is non-negotiable. Ministers are not looking for the jobs that are the most convenient – those that pay the highest, offer the best benefits, are in the best location. While those are all wonderful things, they are secondary to finding the place God has called you to be and the community He has called you to join.
However, this is easier said than done. Ministry candidates face challenges that could make some feel desperate to grab on to the first thing that comes their way. A person cannot wait around, unemployed with bills to pay, for the “perfect fit” to fall into their lap. And a delayed answer to prayer grows increasingly frustrating when a person waits months, even years, before finding a church that “fits.” Even more discouraging is the cycle of applying to churches or ministries, walking with a search committee through an intensely personal and lengthy application and interview process, only to be told you are “not the right person for the job” and ending up right back where you started. These circumstances make it incredibly tempting to apply anywhere and everywhere, hoping that something – ANYTHING – will work out in your favor.
In truth, a person probably could apply anywhere and everywhere and trust God with the details. But I believe we as ministers are called to practice wisdom and discernment. While God calls us and will be faithful to reveal His will, we also are expected to do the hard work of sifting through our options and pursuing ministry opportunities that align with our convictions.
So, where DOES one begin?
Here are a few questions I suggest to help ministry candidates get started.
- Is there a denomination and/or affiliation I wish to align myself with?
This question is the starting point. Not only does it narrow down your options to those that most closely resemble your doctrinal persuasions, it also puts you on the path to communicate with like-minded people about what steps you need to take to pursue a ministry position with a particular church. Most denominations have websites or publications that will post listings for ministry openings within their denominations. Seek out these tools and narrow your search from there.
- Is this church/ministry a place I can reasonably envision myself thriving?
While God can call anybody anywhere, and often to places unexpected, I believe that God puts certain desires in our heart in order to motivate us toward His will. Therefore, if a ministry candidate feels called to urban ministry, it makes sense to apply to churches in urban locations rather than churches in small towns. I’m not saying “follow your heart,” for the heart is deceiving, but DO follow where God moves your heart.
- Do my gifts align with what is being asked of me in the job description?
More “traditional” jobs require certain knowledge and skills sets of their employees. It is no different with ministry. Read the job description of every position you consider applying to. Does what the church or ministry is asking of their candidate match your gifts and interests? If not, it is best not to apply. If so, then perhaps you should pursue that position.
- Do I feel a sense of belonging/kinship with those on the search committee?
Answering this question may require reaching out to the people who post the job description. Get in touch with the places you are interested in, unless the job description explicitly asks for no inquiries. Get a feel for the people you communicate with. Do you have good rapport? Do you sense the presence of God among them? Do they treat you with dignity? Do they seem to truly be seeking God’s choice for their church or are they just in a hurry to fill the position? These questions will help you discern whether these people are part of a community that will support and encourage you or defeat you.
- Do I sense God will be pleased if I pursue this?
There is something in every believer that I like to call their “God gut.” This is the place where the Spirit tells us when something is wrong and something is right. Pray that the Spirit will speak to you regarding the places where you apply. Seek wise counselors who will help you hear what the Spirit is saying.
At the end of the day, the search is the Lords, not our own. We cannot destroy God’s will for our lives so long as we are actively pursuing it. A ministry position will show up – maybe in an entirely unexpected place – but it will show up all the same. And when it does, God will give you the clarity you desire.
Blessings and peace unto you all.