I will graduate from seminary in May and am in the process of exploring two job opportunities. Today, a friend told me how excited she was to be applying for one of these positions. I shared with her that my resume was also at that particular place. At this point, I feel like my friend is a better fit for the position. She already has some semi-connections with the church, knowing some people there. While I am excited about considering this position as well, I feel as though I am a better match in the second position I’m seeking. Any suggestions on how to proceed? In a way I feel like it is wasting time to continue considering the first position for which my friend seems to be a better match.
Also, this may not be the last time a friend will be applying for the same position[s] that I am. Is there a particular etiquette to observe? Any suggestions will be appreciated.
Needing to Know
Dear Needing to Know,
I know how short time seems in your last semester of school, but opportunities to interview with churches are an important part of your education. Whether you are right for the job or not, you may offer something in the interview that the committee needs to hear or think about for their process. The experience may offer you something you need to learn or consider for the future.
Withdrawing from a search process because you feel that your friend is a better fit does not mean that your friend will get the job. The problem with your deciding which person is the best fit for the church without meeting with the church first is that you don’t have all of the information you need to make that call.
Being on a search committee can be a spiritually significant experience. Effective committees use the opportunity to not only search for a new minister, but to pray about and talk about what new possibilities and commitments God might want them to consider. Like the person who prays, “God, may something happen in worship today that’s not in the bulletin,” churches and ministers who are looking for each other would be wise to pray, “God, may something happen in this process that moves beyond our expectations.”
Talking to a variety of candidates can enrich a committee’s process, spark their imaginations, raise questions they need to hear and ask, and help them listen for God. Your participation would likely help the committee fulfill its own ministry. Finding the right person for a church position takes a village that may need to include you.
Friends in ministry often find themselves applying for the same positions. Being upfront and letting your friend know that you both applied for the same job, as you did, was honest and respectful of your friendship. At the same time, showing respect for a search committee that reaches out to you is important as well. This may mean keeping the conversation you have with the committee within the boundary of that meeting. Keep remembering that everyone in this picture is trying to be faithful to the call to serve Christ’s church.
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The photo of Addie Davis is provided courtesy of Special Collections, Jack Tarver Library, Mercer University, Macon, Georgia.