Does trying to get hired in ministry sometimes feel like you’re just banging your head against a wall? It’s time to burst through that wall and into your ministry career!
Getting hired in ministry can be one of the most challenging steps in a career. Parishes, schools, and organizations, seek to further their mission and serve their members. But at the same time they have to be very careful about who they hire. I don’t envy those who do the hiring, but I’ll be the first to admit that I see more challenges for those who seek employment in ministry. With that said, here are Ten Tips For Getting Hired in Ministry.
Be clear and honest with your potential employer about your financial needs. It’s easy to get so passionate about ministry or so desperate for employment that we settle for less. And while doing so isn’t inherently bad, it can become a problem later. If you can’t afford to pay your rent or your salary doesn’t cover your student loan payments, the stress in your personal life will prevent you from being present to the needs of those being served by the ministry. If you’re a parent and your potential employer isn’t interested in paying for your child’s necessary health insurance (I speak from experience on this one), the opportunity is not worth your time. So be clear about your needs.
Often, successful ministry people (especially those in the public eye) appear like celebrities. And instead of learning from them, we see them as unapproachable, and we practically idolize them. Instead of seeing Christ working through these people, we see them. We need to celebrate the ministry successes of others, not envy them. You too are capable of doing something incredible! Find inspiration from those who came before us. Saints like St. Therese of Lisieux
I’ve been there. Interviewing for a position, hoping desperately to get the job. And then one of the worst possible things happened; I was offered the position and I accepted it. In retrospect I realized I should have asked more questions. It became clear that I should have been myself more in the interview. But once I was hired, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was in the wrong place. That led to a bumpy transition for all involved. Come prepared with questions to help ensure that it’s the right place for you.
Pray for guidance and pray that God’s will be done. Many of us in ministry spend too much time focusing on our plans. Ministry is not supposed to be self-serving. But for too many of us it becomes exactly that. Focus on God’s plans.
In his youth, my father was a competitive swimmer, a swim coach, and a pool manager. This was a big part of his life. And throughout his life he drew parallels to swimming and pretty much anything else. In his wisdom he would say, “You can’t save someone else from drowning until you learn to swim yourself.” And he was right. Nowhere is this truer than in ministry. We cannot give what we don’t have. And what we need to give comes only from God.
So instead of running a retreat, attend one. Before organizing an evening of Adoration, visit the Blessed Sacrament, and before sending in your résumé, pray your favorite prayer (I suggest the Divine Mercy Chaplet).
Reach out to potential employers. And always make sure to follow up with them. Even if they say, “we’ll be in touch” or “we’ll let you know”, reach out to them. Following up with a potential employer demonstrates to them that you have a strong interest in the position and practice taking initiative.
Don’t go overboard. The last thing you want to come off as a disruption to their other responsibilities.
You will find this tip in any “business 101” discussion. But out of necessity, ministry often finds itself managed like a business. And all ministry work is inherently relational anyway. So make contacts. Now don’t confuse relationships with some form of nepotism (although that happens sometimes). Getting to know people intimately will enable you to trust each other. You can do this through online social networks like Linkedin.com or Facebook, but nothing beats face-to-face connections.
There are a lot of qualified and unqualified people serving in ministry, and even more looking for opportunities. And those who are in a position to higher you are under enormous pressure to get it right. This pressure may cause them to overlook qualified candidates. Or they may simply be drawn to another candidate. Resist discouragement. Remind yourself before every interview, every email, every application, and every teleconference that all things are to happen on God’s time.
As for self-starters it typically takes a successful small business at least two years to be profitable. So if you are a freelancer or you are starting your own ministry, keep in mind that the money might not come in as quickly as you hoped.
For most of us who dedicate ourselves to ministry, we have a preconceived notion about what our ministry will be like. We have goals and we have talents to share. So we construct a scenario in our minds and build expectations around that. A difficult truth for those seeking ministry work is that whatever position or opportunity you get, it will not match what you have in your mind. In most cases you’re coming into an established system that will demand flexibility on your part. This is true for parish employees, diocesan employees, freelancers, and even people who are starting their own ministry.
Ministry work is supposed to mirror the work of Christ. And Christ sought out those most in need.
And fill that resume! You can be the most talented speaker, musician, writer or retreat leader, but nothing makes you more appealing as a candidate than experience. And the easiest way to get experience is as a volunteer. Volunteer opportunities are out there. Some will be boring, but each time you volunteer you will learn something that will help you in the future.
Now, this comes with and important exception. Never commit yourself to a volunteer opportunity if you can’t fulfill the commitment. Inability to fulfill commitments will hurt you in any professional field.
Of all the challenges facing people who serve in ministry is the attitude of competition. We become jealous when someone else gets the paid gig. We feel like our talents aren’t recognized, and we begin competing with one another for resources and opportunities. This divisive approach doesn’t help build God’s kingdom. Instead of competing with one another, we should be focusing on cooperating with God’s will.
Throughout my years in ministry, I have been passed over for positions many times and hired for both long term employment or one time events many times. Early in my ministry career, I found myself engulfed in self-pity when a position went to someone else. But one of the high-points of my career was when I didn’t get hired as the Campus Minister at an all-male high school. Two weeks later I was offered a job that was a much better fit! And the person they hired instead was definitely the right person for the job.
One of the dirty little secrets of the Church is the struggle of competition. Too often, Catholic parishes, schools, and organizations find themselves desperate for resources and members. Which often results in a I’ve personally witnessed a Pastor defend their parish’s “border” with a determination rivaled only by those who defended the need for the Berlin Wall. This pastor went so far as to turn dismiss a young family’s interest in the parish because they lived within the boundaries of another parish as established by the Archdiocese. As people who feel called to work in ministry, we are susceptible to these same temptations. We must work to avoid turning ministry into business, while still acknowledging that running a ministry can sometimes mirror the structure of the modern business.
There are many challenges and considerations when seeking to get hired for a ministry job. Don’t let these obstacles discourage you. In times of discouragement, we should all turn to Sacred Scripture and the lives of the Saints. If you haven’t read the Book of Job, make sure to check it out.
– Tim Lucchesi is the Director of Chaste Love Ministry. But more importantly, he is a Beloved son of God, a husband to an amazing woman and the father of two children: the most beautiful little girl and a precious baby son. Tim loves cheesecake and sees every superhero movie that he can. After six years in parish and regional youth ministry, Tim felt called to create Chaste Love, because everyone deserves healthy relationships. Follow him on Twitter @tim_lucchesi and Instagram @timlucchesi