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So you want to work at a church

help_wanted1Hello, readers… I know it has been a while since I posted ANYthing. Let’s not make this awkward, I’ll just get to what’s on my mind today.

Almost every Monday that I can remember for many years, I have received an email from churchstaffing.com with the latest church media/creative/technical job opportunities. Early on, as well as a couple of times since, it was a great resource for finding new jobs. These days, I remain subscribed to the emails, but now it’s more about curiosity; It never fails to amaze me how churches will package their media/production needs into job posts and the titles they give these jobs.

After working for three different churches, I look at these job posts much differently than I did years ago. I realize now that when I was actively looking for a job, I was really just looking for a few buzz words that pertained to my particular set of skills. I figured if I could just get an interview that I could play-up what I excelled at, show potential in areas in where I could learn and grow, and we could work out the rest of the details when a job offer was made. I know now that this was pretty short sighted. If I were to interview for a church job today, I would ask A LOT more questions about many more topics than just the job itself. Here are a few pointers on navigating the job search and interview process.

Pray. Duh. Don’t ever go about looking for a job within the church without seeking God… perhaps like you never have before.

Read the WHOLE job post. And then, read it again. And then again. The details are necessary. All of them. Look at what the ad says AND what it doesn’t say. When you find a lack of information in the post or the full job description itself, make sure that those items become good questions if things move forward. It is generally understood that the interviewee is on the hot seat in these situations; most people fail to realize that you are interviewing them too. They will have their questions, you should have plenty to ask them as well.

Research the church. You can usually find out most of what you need to get started by visiting the church’s website. Look through it thoroughly. Watch a few previous services on video. See what they post about in various social media platforms. A look into these areas will tell you what is most important to any organization. No matter how good a job posting may look, you need to know if you can fit into the church culture.

New position or replacement? This is a big deal either way. If the position is a new job classification for a church, you would be coming in to a very unique situation and you should weigh ALL of the pros and cons and ask a lot of questions about what would be expected of you. Similarly, in a situation where you would be replacing someone, you need to ask very detailed questions about the job. While a church is not likely to tell you all of the details of your predecessor’s departure, you still have a responsibility to yourself to get an understanding of the dynamics of what you could be walking into.

Job vs. Calling. This post is specifically for those who are looking to enter church work in the area(s) of technical production and/or media creation. I have found that these types of positions are often viewed as jobs and not callings. Aren’t they the same? In my opinion, no. I believe that any job classification at a church is ministry, even if your work is primarily behind the scenes. You are not just a monkey pushing buttons; this is a calling… and one that shouldn’t be entered into lightly by the church or the candidate. Be very weary of a job that centers so much on the tasks and not the holistic picture of ministry. Be sure to ask about what kinds of ways that you, as a staff member, will be encouraged and built up spiritually as well as opportunities to learn more about your craft.

Ask yourself good questions. Can i work there? Can I sit under the pastor’s teaching? Is it worth packing up my family and moving for this job? Dialog with yourself and with your spouse is critical. Don’t ever get so caught up in the emotions of what may seem like your dream job and leave out the details that would get you there.

Do the math. Believe it or not, this has NOTHING to do with the proposed salary or benefits. This has to do with the totality of the work that would be expected from you versus your capacity to complete it all. While much of a job description might sound very appealing to you, consider all that you would need to do on a weekly basis. How many hours will it typically take? Would there be some kind of compensation for extra hours/days worked? How often are you working alone versus how often would you be working with a team? Be sure to weigh in on your own expectations of a work week, keeping in mind that there are seasons in church work that can be very demanding (Not just Christmas and Easter). A job with a great church can be wonderful, but don’t ever lose sight of having the right margin for family and personal time as well. Case in point:

A few months ago, I came across a posting for a “Media Director” at a church just outside of Seattle, Washington. Between the job title and most of what was listed as the desired experience and job functions, I would have jumped at the opportunity a few years ago. Then I started doing the math. Here are the litany of duties (directly from the posting):

  • Oversee the recruitment and training of the Media Team volunteers and staff and our entire sound, video, and lighting experience for Sunday mornings and throughout the week so that our people can consistently encounter God deeply without distractions
  • Manage/oversee all church worship experiences, events, and ministries
  • Create professional technical presentations for all in-house and external presentations

…and the required experience:

  • Proficient in all aspects of live sound reinforcement
  • Full knowledge of live production, including video, audio, lighting, multi-media and staging
  • Minimum 3 years of troubleshooting technical equipment and overseeing preventative maintenance
  • Knowledge and ability to operate technical gear including video switcher, cameras, recording gear and digital recording equipment
  • Minimum 3 years leading and supervising a production team to include staff and volunteers
  • Ability to operate various platforms of large analog and digital consoles, including audio mixing
  • MacOSX, Pro-Tools, MS Office, Adobe Creative Suite, Final Cut Pro, Pro-Presenter, and general computer skills
  • Ability to troubleshoot audio system
  • Excellent organizational skills, written, verbal, and interpersonal communication skills
  • Ability to multitask and manage projects; delegating tasks to others and meeting deadlines
  • Commitment to excellence
  • Follower of Jesus Christ, reflecting maturity in faith
  • Strong teaching/training skills with the ability to communicate technical terms into non-technical language

Now, you couple this list with a visit to the church’s website where you will discover that this is a church with traditional and contemporary services; this means that this person would have all of the duties listed above in what amounts to two different congregations. Also, notice how far down the list you have to go before you hit “Follower of Jesus”. Do the math. While I am not a Human Resources expert, I would access that this single job posting would be better covered by no less than three different people. Simply put: This is an incredibly unrealistic hire. I actually printed out the post to keep because I couldn’t quite believe all that they were asking for. My guess is that even if they could find someone to take on this daunting request, they would be looking for a replacement inside of two years. This person will burn out and his/her marriage and kids will pay a big price.

Churches have creative and technical needs but don’t often have big budgets; I understand that. But that doesn’t mean that you have to take a vow of poverty (in salary AND time) to work there. This is not all that needs to be said on this topic and I may address it again in the future. My hope is to help potential candidates really think through the process and make good decisions.

Anything you would add to this list?

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