….asking the right questions when interviewing for children's ministry workers
by Robin Turner
Last week, I was chatting with a seminary student applying for a children’s ministry position. This particular student has an M.Div., multiple years working in church and para-church ministries, and coursework in catechesis from her denomination’s seminary. As she reflected some self-doubt stemming from conversations with one search committee, I pointed out, “I think you’re competent for the position, I just doubt the search committee’s competence for evaluating you.”
When a search committee interviews candidates with a narrow vision or truncated understanding of what a children’s ministry can look like, they hinder their own ministry from growth. In order to find candidates with a vision for facilitating spiritual formation, leading children to worship, and creating a sense of belonging in a church family, the interview process needs some adjustments.
Here are some examples of more helpful interview questions:
- How would you describe an ideal relationship between a child and a church family? What are some ways you envision our church building those relationships?
- What background do you have in biblical studies? What resources do you find helpful?
- What sorts of biblical knowledge would you hope to focus on with children, and what methods do you tend to use when teaching?
- Beyond biblical knowledge, what do you hope children would learn at church? In what ways would you hope to facilitate that?
- In many senses, a children’s ministry leader is more like a principal than a teacher. What types of experience do you have in guiding teacher and volunteers in lesson-planning or classroom leadership?
- We might have some programs or events that have run their course. How would you evaluate which programs or events to discontinue and which to keep? Do you have experience launching programs? Do you have experience discontinuing programs?
Looking through our regular programs and lessons, what missed opportunities do you see? Do you see any blind spots we’ve missed?
- What are three recent learning opportunities you’ve engaged in (books, podcasts, forums, conferences, seminary classes, Bible studies) that have encouraged or influenced your role in children’s ministry?
- As a ministry leader who works on Sunday mornings, it might be difficult for you to engage in regular congregational worship and build friendships with members. What are some ways we can commit to helping you know you’re a valued member of our church family and not just a staff member?
Over the past six years, I’ve spent over thirty-hours in interviews at six different churches for children’s ministry positions. In almost every context, I’ve countered interview questions with research and best practices to re-frame what the search committee is looking for and share how I would address the need. Instead of waiting for a candidate to reframe the interview process, search committees can benefit from broadening their vision beyond perpetuating past models of ministry and seeking a candidate they can craft a deeper vision alongside.
Contributed by Robin Turner, Children's Ministries Director at St. Stephen's Church in Sewickley, PA and creator of www.worshipwithchildren.com