Six Ways I Grew Through a Tough Job Search
My process of searching for a job was difficult- mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. While it seemed that many of my other friends were having no difficulty whatsoever landing a full-time job after graduating from college or from seminary, my story and my journey was different. Granted, not all of them were in ministry. (I became extremely jealous of my friends applying to schools and hearing back within a week or two).
I started my search officially during the last semester of my senior year- talking fairly seriously with two different churches. Neither were a great fit, and I wanted to continue on in my studies and get my Master’s degree, so I decided to unofficially pause my search and go to seminary. I hit the searching and interviewing hard in the last year of my program, talking to up to eight different churches at one time. I believe I had at least initial conversations with upwards of thirty different congregations.
Not only was this a logistical nightmare, trying to keep each conversation with each church sorted properly, but it was also exhausting for my fiancée (now wife) and I. I am not sure if this is the case in all denominations across Christendom (in fact, I am pretty sure it’s not), but in the denomination I am in, there are three stages of the interview process.
Stage One is an initial phone call conversation with one or a few people from the search committee. If that goes well, and they are still interested in you, they invite you on to Stage Two, which is a Skype or FaceTime call with the entire search committee. If that goes well, they invite you to Stage Three, which is an onsite interview held over a weekend.
Usually this consists of many different meetings with various groups of people, (parents, members, elders, ministers and staff, and students). They also usually ask you to teach on that Sunday morning, evaluating if you can teach or not I suppose, and sometimes even throw a curveball at you for leading part of the service as well. (Nothing I couldn’t handle, but one church asked me to lead a prayer while another asked me to lead communion thoughts during their service). After this, if you pass through all of the stages and they still like you, they then offer you (or the other candidate) the job.
Now all of this, of course, takes time. A lot of time. When you have search committees comprised of volunteers who have various jobs and obligations, it takes a lot of time. Sometimes I would be in conversations with a single church for up to five to six months moving through these three stages very slowly.
And I get it – you want to make sure that the candidate is a good fit for you and that the church is a good fit for the parties.
(Not to mention you want to find the “Superman” candidate that is young and fresh out of college, but also somehow has five years of experience, has a counseling degree, is wise and mature, but also relatable and trendy, can bench 1,000 lbs, and is a black belt in karate. Sorry- I digress and am being a little cheeky. But there is some amount of truth to this from my experience).
So, all of this culminated into the perfect storm in some ways. Well, all of this and one other thing: I am not what most people think of when they think of a youth pastor. (Don’t tell my church- I still have them fooled). I am more quiet, reserved, pensive, technically an introvert, and not all that creative.
So in the midst of this whole process, I would go on onsite interviews, I would connect with people (which drained me), I would spend time and energy trying my hardest to prove that I had what it took. And yet, time after time, I would get a phone call that went something like this: “Wes, we really liked you…but…we decided to go with the other candidate.” Crushing. All of my time and energy, all of that time- wasted. And it got to the point where I seriously started to doubt what I perceived as my calling- youth ministry. It’s not easy to take those calls over and over and over again; to constantly hear the message “you’re just not good enough” time and time again.
Thus, my job search was difficult, and perhaps very different from your own experience. But I say all that to give you some background on me and my experience, and to turn my post now to hope. You see, in the midst of all the challenging parts of my job search, in the midst of the lies of the evil one taking hold in my brain that I’m not good enough and that I’m not cut out for youth ministry, I had people speak truth into my life to give me hope to keep going. And looking back- I am so glad I kept searching. At the end of my time searching for a job, (by this point I am married, trying to support myself and my spouse, while still searching for a full-time job), I found myself talking to five different churches at the same time, two of which were in the stage three zone- where I go to the onsite interviews with each of them. These two, more serious conversations were two churches that I thought would be great fits for my wife and I- either of them.
However, one of them, even from the initial time they contacted me, I thought it was more of a dream job type of situation. They were a large, suburban church, with a lot of or even more of what I would dream of for a position. So, even in the initial conversations, I entertained them, but always had the sneaking suspicion that they would turn me down eventually because they were a large, established church and really could go after anyone they wanted to. Imagine my surprise when they called me and offered me the position. I literally told the Executive Minister on the other end of the phone that I fully expected him to tell me that they went with the other candidate.
You see, looking back at the whole process, I think there were and are some lessons for me to glean from it all.
- Good things come to those who wait.
- I need to work on being patient more.
- I am enough.
- Being different is okay.
- Community is SO important.
- Never settle.
I could’ve landed at a couple of jobs earlier on that offered me the position which I turned down, but I knew it would be a struggle for me theologically, or for my wife and I due to location. I wanted something great, and I honestly wanted a challenge. I don’t think God calls us to be comfortable, but to always strive to challenge ourselves and keep growing.
My process was hard and difficult, and really long- over a year. And I honestly wouldn’t wish that on any of you.
However, I think there are lessons to be learned, even in the midst of the difficulties. I am thankful that I kept pursuing it and kept striving. I am thankful for those along the way that pushed me and encouraged me. And I am thankful for my church now which I get to call my family. Perhaps this post can be an encouragement for you if you are in this season, or an inspiration for you if you are not. Blessings on you and your ministry, and remember that God has called you to minister to those around you.
I am at a job that seemed way out of my league, and I have been here for five years now, and still love it.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.