How Would Jesus Interview?

Interview like a Heartbreaker

One thing that is extremely exciting about pastoral recruiting is meeting candidates all across the nation who have a heart for Christ. You get to hear their stories, passions and desires to advance the Kingdom. Recently I had an introductory interview with a candidate. I noticed that the candidate (let’s call him Ray) had kept the interview at a very superficial level.

Me: So tell me why you are leaving your current position?

Ray: I love this church but I just know that it’s time to move on.

Twenty minutes of bland conversation later I realized that I was experiencing the greatest problem in the recruiting process for the local church: Real conversations are not really happening. This awareness allowed me to be strategic about the direction that I wanted to take the interview in. I also took it as a challenge and asked myself, “Can I win this guy over to trust me in a short matter of time and how am I going to do it?”  Challenge accepted.

1.     Build Rapport by Making It About Them

Since I became aware of the situation I noticed that my perception of Ray had become deeper. I started to tell myself, “Here’s a man who is made in God’s image. This is my brother in Christ. Here is a guy who has abandoned riches and worldly things for the sake of Christ.” I started to ask him questions about his wife, children, education, interests, hobbies and personal life with a deep sincerity. We started to laugh and share stories and realized that we had some mutual connections. As we spoke Ray started to see that I was genuinely interested in him and naturally…our conversation began to deepen.

2.     Build Trust by Reminding Each Other of Truth

I began to express my concerns about the interview process in the local church to Ray. We talked about how sad it is that this group of people called the Church should have the best interviews in the world. We talked about how pastors don’t need to pretend to be the Rock and maintain this stoic image of piety. We started to relish in the freedom that Christ provided for us and that we don’t have to pretend to be perfect… especially in the interview process. Then he said something that caught my attention, “To be honest, I wish all interviews were like this.”  Once he said those three key words I knew that I had him. I knew that he trusted me. Pay attention to key words and phrases that your candidate or interviewee is saying. Once they say something like: “I’ll be blunt, I’ll be open, I’ll just come out and say it, I’m going to lay this all on the table” you have moved to a position of trust with them and can begin to ask the hard questions.

3.     Ask The Heart Breaking Questions

Here goes nothing… “Ray, everything that we just talked about is so true. So please know that your answer won’t change my perception of you. But I do have to ask, are you spiritually burnt out?” The walls came crashing down as Ray started to explain to me why he was really leaving his current job. He explained that the church was in a bad spiritual state. He told me that he wasn’t aware with how bad the current situation was when he accepted the job. The leadership team had failed to communicate the brokenness that the church was dealing with when Ray was a candidate. Ray was heartbroken by his experience and had lost trust because of it. He had put up walls around his heart and was shielding himself from future hurt.

The interview process is broken in the Church because we are a fallen and heartbroken people. In order to have a healthy and authentic interview what else can the Body do but rely on the restoration of the Gospel? This has to be considered from the candidate's perspective as well. In order for them to be open with the Church, they must understand that the Church knows that everyone is broken. That their faults will not completely disqualify them from being hired. Someone who is spiritually burnt out still has the capability to be an amazing pastor. They need support, prayer, and love in order to be brought back. It is the role of the Church leadership team to support each other in this process in order for ALL of them to be healthy. 

To have a full interview we have to be strategic to gain rapport, build trust and ask hard questions. That’s the only way to break through a hard heart; to become a heartbreaker.