Here at The Summit Church, we have been blessed beyond our wildest imagination to have an incredible resource in and partnership with our friends over at SEBTS. My years in seminary at SEBTS were some of the most instrumental, fine tuning, theologically stretching, and pastorally preparing years of my life. I would not be anywhere near the man that I am today without my years there. With the rising number of seminary students in our church, almost all of whom are looking for jobs within the local church, I want to offer up 5 Tips for The Seminary Student as they begin to look for a job in the local church and begin the interview process. This comes from being in the seat of the one being interviewed to now someone who has sat in the other seat for the past 12 years conducting the interviews. Hope this is helpful for you.
- Start Serving Yesterday: What I want to know more than what’s on your diploma is “how have you been faithfully serving the bride of Christ while you were in seminary?” I want to know if you were willing to take the role of a volunteer in a ministry and sit under the leadership of someone, learn from them, grow as a servant of Christ, and give yourself fully without ever getting a paycheck. Is that you? Are you willing to serve without always being the one in charge?
- You don’t know everything: Yes, you’ve learned a lot in the past 3 years in the classroom (or if you were like me…7 years). We know that you are walking out of that seminary with a greater understanding of soteriology, missiology, theology, criticismology (that’s ology for “I have learned to criticize everything”), ecclesiology, and all the other ologies you can possibly think of. I remember interviewing for my first full-time Student Pastor job. I thought I knew more about ministry than the man that was interviewing me because of my head knowledge. I was 22 years old. He had been in the ministry for 30+ years. After that man took a risk on me, I later learned that I knew a lot on paper, but I had no idea just how hard ministry was. Take the mindset into the interview that you really don’t know as much as you think you know. We call that teachability, and it goes a long way in life.
- Look the other person in the eyes: OH MY SWEET VIRGINIA! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in an interview with someone and they never looked me in the eyes. The looked at my floor, my walls, my ceiling, my whiteboard, my computer screen, my desk, my shoes, my mom (just kidding, just wanted to make sure you were still with me) but they never looked me in the eyes. Making eye contact with another person when speaking with them shows that you care, that you’re listening, that you’re engaged in the conversation, that you’re confident, and in my opinion it shows maturity.
- Speak clearly and with passion: What I want to hear from you as an employer is that you are articulate and passionate. Yes, I care if you know your ologies (see point #1), but I also care that they’ve made their way from your brain down into your heart and have changed you. Those things you’re learning in seminary should begin to stir in you a new affection, which should lead to a greater passion in your life. We want to see that passion come alive in the interview….bring it!
- Take feedback from the interview and grow from it: Let’s just say you don’t get the job. So what. It happens. It happened to me. 10 years ago I was in an interview process for the Student Pastor position at a church. They ended up hiring the other guy. On my way out of my final interview with that church, one of the men on that staff walked me out to my car and very kindly told me “I don’t think you’re ready for this position. You’re too young and you just don’t have the experience yet. Stay faithful and soak everything in along the way in your next job. God has gifted you tremendously, don’t push back against the learning curves along the way.” I took that feedback and applied it. I couldn’t do anything about my age, but I could gain experience and have some growing pains as a leader. And I did. Here’s the best part about all of this: That church that told me I wasn’t ready? The Summit Church.…where I have now been serving in our Student Ministry for the past 7 years. They were right, by the way. I wasn’t ready at that time. But God used that critical moment during that interview to shape me and prepare me for the ministry I am serving in today.
Seminary student, we’re excited about you. We’re excited about the next wave of leaders that are being prepared among you. Take some time during your years in school to learn from others, serve with others, and grow as a leader.