One of the most requested services we receive at Vital Worship is coaching churches who are beginning to search for a new worship leader. It’s been my experience that search committees are often made up of well-intentioned people, who love their church, and the church has placed their trust in them, but they often feel lost trying to navigate through this process. There are certain things that a search team should do and not do during the interview process. Not being aware of these things could cost your church the opportunity to bring in a really great candidate.
This is not an exhaustive list, but I’ve highlighted 5 things a search committee should and shouldn’t do when interviewing a potential worship leader.
Don’t visit their current place of employment. I’ve heard stories of pastor search committees showing up in large numbers on a Sunday morning at a potential candidate’s current church, or even worse, coming in the church van. This does nothing but potentially damage the candidate’s current ministry. Why would they be willing to put that at risk when they don’t even know for sure they will end up at your church? We have the technology available now for you to not have to be physically present in order for you to get a sense of the candidate’s gifting and ability.
Don’t assume you can talk to their current employer. Again, they don’t know for sure you have a job waiting for them. Here’s a sad reality: Many pastors, due to insecurity, will push for the worship leader to be fired if they get wind they are being scouted by another church. In many cases, the result may not be this extreme, but if the new position doesn’t work out, it could forever damage the worship leader’s relationship with their current pastor. It shouldn’t be that way, but that’s simply how it is in many ministry contexts. If you are wanting to talk to their current pastor, ASK PERMISSION FIRST and be understanding if they refuse. It’s probably best, that if the candidate doesn’t list their current pastor as a reference, don’t even go there.
When interviewing…be hospitable and approachable. Don’t be creepy. I had a friend who walked in for an interview and they had pictures of he and his wife that they had printed off of Facebook spread out all over the table. Weird. Also, don’t be cold. In this same interview, this friend was grilled question after question as if the search committee was only interested in learning the facts and not the person. The interviewers should be professional and to the point, but friendly and conversational. Have some refreshments available for them. Make sure they have comfortable seating. Pay for their mileage, their meal, and if they have to stay overnight, a hotel room (not someone’s couch or spare room). Failure to do this in the interview process communicates that you won’t really value them once they join the staff.
Make a list of questions and send them to the candidate beforehand. This allows the candidate to think through their answers so they are clear and concise. They can have time to tell you before the interview, if they aren’t comfortable answering certain questions. Feel free to deviate from the list a bit. You don’t want to repeat the experience of my friend who felt they were just going through a checklist with him. Again, this interview should be conversational. So, their answers could spur on other questions and discussions.
Don’t ask pointed questions based on past hurts or nostalgia. You can be honest with the candidate about past hurts, but don’t dig up all the baggage in front of your candidate or view him through the lens of a previous pastor’s successes or failures. This candidate is not the same person who caused you pain, or the same person who had great success before. He is a unique person with giftings and a calling to serve God and the church. Get to know your candidate and ask God to give you discernment and trust the Holy Spirit to provide clarity.
Expect about a 90 day process (someone already at a church may take longer). Churches can tend to either try to rush the process or take way too long. If the candidate is already serving at a church, they may not be able to go as quickly as you would like. Even if they accept the position, they still have to get their affairs in order, such as: informing their pastor, informing their church, selling their house, moving, finding their new house, etc. On the flip side, don’t string them along either. There is a lot of anxiety that the candidate and their family will face during this process. They will potentially be moving (one of the most stressful things a family can do), discerning God’s will, and leaving a church family that they love (hopefully). The search committee needs to have a plan in place and don’t just “wing it.” That’s unfair to your candidate, their family, or their current ministry. Be diligent on your end.
There are many details to iron out when searching for a new worship leader. Vital Worship wants to help you. We offer assistance in crafting a job description, creating a salary package, general coaching for search committees, and more. Each consultation is tailor made to fit your church’s needs. If we can help, or you would like to know more, contact us here.