8 Questions to Answer as a Ministry Position Applicant

Pay Attention...There May Be a Test Later...

This is the season when many a church musician's eyes gaze longingly upon greener pastures. Churches too, as it turns out, because the time between Easter and Labor Day is one long game of musical chairs...literally...as people begin or leave music ministry positions. Although the economic times have kept more people in positions they may not entirely enjoy, I know that many of you who are reading this are looking, or interviewing, or saying good bye as I type this.

As it happens, I have a friend who has been out of a "regular" job for well over a year. This person is not a church musician, so by regular, I mean a 9 to 5 white collar job in another industry. As I have been following my friend's progress through the search process, I have been struck by the fact that the majority of positions my friend applies for involve a written test as part of the company's screening of applicants. Written tests for applicants are common for government jobs, but my friend has had to take tests for a whole lot of private sector jobs as well.

So I've been thinking about my experience in being called by a church for a music ministry position. Hands down my favorite application process was not applying at all. This has happened a couple of times. One instance was when I called a church about an ad in the paper because I was the Executive Director of the National Association of Church Musicians, and I wanted to list the position as available. The person who answered the phone as the volunteer receptionist for the day happened to be the chair of the hiring committee, and by the time I hung up the phone, we had decided that I was perfect for the position. Another time, I was sitting at home minding my own business when the phone rang and it was the pastor of a church offering me a position sight unseen, based upon my academic position at the time.

But in most cases, the process was much more involved, both in terms of hoops through which to jump, and time spent. Not once, though, did I ever have to take a written test.

There was one church, however, that asked, as part of the application, for written responses to several questions. I found, personally, that those questions helped me articulate what I believed about certain things. As a result, I adapted several of those questions, and added a few others, and began to include the questions and answers as part of my supporting materials. Here are the 8 Questions I chose to include:

  • Describe your spiritual journey.
  • Our church has specific values and theological positions. Describe how your beliefs and ideas about a music and worship ministry fit into that framework.
  • Describe your present employment situation. Why are you considering a change?
  • Of what recent accomplishment/events/experiences are you most proud? Why?
  • What are your top 5 attributes and strengths that you believe help to qualify you to be a Music & Worship Minister for this congregation?
  • How would you characterize your leadership style?
  • Tell us anything else about yourself and your background that you believe would make you a leading candidate for this position.
  • What additional information, materials, records etc. can you provide us, if required, to bet­ter assess you qualifications and match for this position?

If you'd like to see my answers to the questions above, email me here for a copy.

I found that including the questions (and answers) had at least one, if not more, noticeable effects on my interaction with a church that was looking for someone to join their ministry team:

  • It made my application stand out, because few people were including this kind of information
  • It helped the church "cut to the chase" because they didn't have to have a phone interview to figure out if I was a potential candidate
  • It helped many churches figure out who and what they wanted, because they hadn't really thought through their own answers to questions like this (I know this to be true because quite a number of them told me exactly that)
  • It gave the church and I a place to start conversations about things that really mattered to me during an actual interview (more often than not, it would go like this: "I see from your question number x, that you believe...")

As a result, I recommend that you consider crafting a set of questions and answers to include with your own application materials.

But, as I say, I've been thinking about my friend's experience, and I wonder if there should be an actual written test as part of a music ministry application process. In some ways, I think it would be helpful to be able to show my expertise, although at some level, and particularly as a result of my experience as a music professor, I am not a fan of tests.

Final Thoughts

When this post originally appeared, I asked our readers to tell me whether or not they thought there should be a written test as part of the application process for a music/worship ministry position, and, if so, what kinds of questions should be asked. You can see the results of that invitation here. Blessings.

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