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Finding a Job: Resumes, Video introductions, cover letters and more

310135209_1c87f1ab1f_mYou have a lot of control over this part of the process.  It’s generally your first major step to tell a potential employer about yourself.  So you want to make sure to put your best foot forward.  As I’ve said a few times in this series I receive a lot of resume packets.  We have frequent openings as we have interns and residents positions.  I feel like I’m always opening up some sort of packet.  A few years back I landed on what I felt as an interviewer was the right mix of information both formal and informal that gave me the best introduction to candidates.  What we started doing was requiring a ministry resume, an informal video introduction and a cover letter that tells us why they are interested (there is some overlap between the video and cover letter.)   Your goal is to make sure that the employer reads through all your material and watches your whole video.  Most employers won’t ask for the type of video I’m advocating and will instead ask for a “teaching” video.  Your goal is to get them to watch this short video because it’s your first interview and will put you ahead of other candidates.

  1. Resume-  Don’t simply take a microsoft word template and put together a basic resume you send out to everyone. You’ve actually got to tailor your resume for particular jobs.  That takes work and it should.  Make sure that you aren’t highlighting jobs from 10 years ago unless they are specifically relevant to the job you are applying for.  And just a quick reminder. No one cares about your grade point average.  It doesn’t tell us what kind of a youth worker you’ll be only that you are proud of yourself for your grades.  You should list conferences and professional stuff you’ve done. It helps me see who is influencing you.  And make sure to have a section about your “interests” because that just gives me a small picture of who you are in a short blurb. Keep the resume to two pages and if you want to include a picture that’s great.
  2. Cover Letter– This is where doing your research matters.  Don’t right a generic cover letter. Show me that you’ve actually done some research on the church or organization and can speak to why you are interested in working for us.  This isn’t the place for name dropping but honestly tell me why you are interested. I can tell if you really get us by what you write.  This should be a page and doesn’t have to be an introduction because that’s what the video is for.
  3. Video Introduction– This is your chance in 2 short minutes to get a first interview ahead of everyone else. You need to shoot a simple video introduction that is clever, basic and will show them your personality.  I tell people that using a simple cell phone camera is fine. Just a basic, here’s a little bit about you and what makes you tick. I just watched one where the candidate was moving throughout his whole house introducing his life and he ended up getting on a scooter and riding away. It was quirky, funny and great.  You can tailor the video towards a particular job. They are easy to shoot and you can do multiple.  One quick note you are going to want to upload the video to youtube or a similar site and send a link don’t embed the video in an e-mail. This makes it really easy for a potential employer to simply forward your full packet to the committee if there is one.

Good luck job hunting.

Finding a Job series:

  1. How to start a search process and looking for jobs?
  2. Think about your fit
  3. Start writing your interview questions (you will be interviewing them)
  4. Prep Work (be the most informed candidate they have)
  5. Resumes, video introductions, cover letters and applications
  6. Interviews: Presenting yourself well
  7. Interviews: How to get a second one
  8. Face to face to face to face. What to do when they bring you in for a weekend?
  9. Negotiating 101
  10. Negotiating 201
  11. Seeking Discernment: Praying, asking friends, checking with family.
Photo by Oskar Seljeskog via Flickr (Creative Commons)
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Finding a Job: Prep Work- Be the most informed candidate they have

research_word_in_dictionary_magnified_sepiaI do a lot of interviews.  Over the years I have worked at a number of large churches and it often feels like I’m always in the midst of interviewing someone.  What tends to impress me the most are candidates who obviously have done prep work to know something about the church.  I am always looking for candidates who know our programs and the names of staff members who can also ask solid questions about how things work and fit together.  It’s fairly easy to tell also those who have simply gone to the website and memorized a few programs verses those who looked to try and understand what the church was all about.   You will do so much better in an interview process if you are “informed” about the church that is interviewing you.  What you don’t want to have happen is to have the interviewers feel like they are having to explain everything to you.  You will be a step above other candidates if you show you have done your homework. Plus they will be talking more than you. You want to be talking.

Here’s a couple ways to do this:

1. Explore the website:  It may not be good but it is your first resource.

2. Familiarize yourself with programs:  This helps you see connections and ask questions.

3. Know Names: At my church we have four main staff people all names Scott. It’s helpful to our interview team if you know that and have done a little work to show that you know what each of them does.

4. Read everything: Many churches have a monthly newsletter or magazine.  Read the past years so you can see what things have been important or are big areas they want to highlight.  Also read bulletins and if you are in a large denomination if they minutes of any meetings.  This will give you great knowledge.

5. Ask Others: One thing I like to do is just ask people what they know about the church. Hopefully you are doing some networking and have found some people in the area you can talk to. Ask them what they think.

There are potentially a whole bunch of other ways to get information about churches. You can check facebook, google the name, read the local paper, check with seminaries and Christian colleges.  Ask questions on social media.  Bottom line is any info you get will just help you be more informed than the next candidate and that’s what you want.  This will take some effort but honestly that’s what we want to see anyways when we are interviewing you.

 

Finding a Job series:

1. How to start a search process and looking for jobs? 

2. Think about your fit

3. Start writing your interview questions (you will be interviewing them)

4. Prep Work (be the most informed candidate they have)

5. Resumes, video introductions, cover letters and applications

6. Interviews: Presenting yourself well

7. Interviews: How to get a second one

8. Face to face to face to face. What to do when they bring you in for a weekend?

9. Negotiating 101

10. Negotiating 201

11. Seeking Discernment: Praying, asking friends, checking with family.

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Finding a job: Writing your interview questions

Job-Interview-Prep-Part-2-Main-Interview-Thumbnail2-1024x576“Do you have any questions for us?”    “Ummmm, not as this time……”

#FAIL

One thing you need to remember is that during the interview process you are interviewing the church as much as they are interviewing you.  It’s just reality that you need to ask them a ton of questions. That’s generally why you need multiple interviews with many different people.  I suggest you figure out what questions you can ask the pastor, students, parents, elders, deacons, board members, assistants, secretaries, random people you meet.  All of them are potential major sources of information that will help you as you job hunt.  Don’t hesitate to ask questions. They expect you to and honestly will like you more if you show that you are all about figuring out what they are.

 

So here’s what we will talk about:

1. How to start a search process and looking for jobs? 

2. Think about your fit

3. Start writing your interview questions (you will be interviewing them)

4. Prep Work (be the most informed candidate they have)

5. Resumes, video introductions, cover letters and applications

6. Interviews: Presenting yourself well

7. Interviews: How to get a second one

8. Face to face to face to face. What to do when they bring you in for a weekend?

9. Negotiating 101

10. Negotiating 201

11. Seeking Discernment: Praying, asking friends, checking with family.

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Finding a job: Think about your fit

9733e4abfe2f6155b7c4882a4069faf4One thing I don’t feel people do enough is to think about the fit they are looking for.  I fully realize that in this job market often times the goal is to just find a job but you really do need to look for something that is best suited for who you are. I can’t tell you the number of times I received resumes from people who it just didn’t make sense that they were applying for that job.

Here’s a couple of things to think about. 

1. Theology– Ok people I have to be honest with you. This matters. I can’t tell you how many times I get resumes from people who are serving in churches that are so theologically different than ones I work at.   I’ll be honest and say I’ve been careless in this area too and have applied for jobs I had no business thinking about.  You might say theology doesn’t matter as much. That may be true if you are at a non denominational or Bible church where they are similar but old mainline denominations have pretty big differences.  My advice is to figure out what you believe. Any church you interview at is going to ask you tough questions about this anyways. Good to figure it out now.

2. Size of church- Some of us are meant to work at big churches.  Big isn’t better. It’s just bigger.  I’ll be honest and say that there are a lot of times I’m envious of my friends who are at smaller churches.  There are a lot of reasons for this but bottom line is they are just different.  You need to figure out what type of church you are comfortable in and don’t interview at the wrong kind of church.   As an example I’ll say I am mostly comfortable at larger churches with multi-staffed youth ministry. My sweet spot is working on a team and delegating. It’s what I’ve always known.  If I went to a church where I was the solo youth pastor (and I’ve had a few chances to do that) I wouldn’t probably flounder.

3. Your background/history- I’m in the process right now of filling a position. One of the people who has applied is someone who was in my youth group several years back.  He has a leg up on other people applying for the job because his youth ministry background is similar to the style of ministry we run at my current church.   As you look for jobs it is often helpful for you to think about the parts of youth ministry that have been most meaningful for you. If you love overseas missions trips make sure to go to a church that is about missions. If you are passionate about being outdoors and in the wilderness an inner city church with no mountains nearby is probably not for you.

4. The future- All I can say here is you need to think about your future and what you want for your life.  Simple things such as living near family, raising kids in a particular area (assuming you have kids), doing things you love in places you love, going to school, committing for 20 years etc.  You may not fully know what you want to do with your life but thinking through what is valuable to you and important is a step you want to take as you are looking for jobs.

5. Finances– Yes money matters. You may be single and able to live off of what the church pays but what happens if you get married and have kids.  As you are looking for a job it’s probably helpful to pay attention to who the church currently employees. Are they a young church with mostly single people on staff? Do they have a lot of married folks with young kids.  Do your research and figure out who they are.  Even beyond kids too it’s going to matter. What if you want to go to school. Can the churches you are looking at able to pay you enough to afford it?

 

So here’s what we will talk about:

1. How to start a search process and looking for jobs? 

2. Think about your fit

3. Start writing your interview questions (you will be interviewing them)

4. Prep Work (be the most informed candidate they have)

5. Resumes, video introductions, cover letters and applications

6. Interviews: Presenting yourself well

7. Interviews: How to get a second one

8. Face to face to face to face. What to do when they bring you in for a weekend?

9. Negotiating 101

10. Negotiating 201

11. Seeking Discernment: Praying, asking friends, checking with family.

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Finding a job: How to start the search process

625px-Get-a-Job-IntroThis part of the process always seems to get many of us stuck.  We either get completely overwhelmed wondering where to start or we often get a myopic focus that is so narrow we can’t find any traction.

Fortunately there are some easy steps to getting unstuck and moving your search process ahead.

1. Network–  The best thing you can do when starting to look for a job is to let people know. I realize this is slightly problematic if you haven’t told your current employer but you’ve got to figure out a way around that because your best bet in finding a job is to enlist people to help you.  It’s just reality that if you can get more people to put out the word and help you look you will find more opportunities.  As an example I was in an interview process recently where we were interviewing a candidate that several people I know had told me was amazing. That paid off huge for this candidate as we already had a good feeling about him before the interview even started.  In a similar vein I can’t tell you how important getting to know people in the youth ministry world is and networking with other youth workers.   I realize not everyone is like me but it is such an important thing to be known and to know people because that is often what opens doors and opportunities.

2. Beginning to Look: : There are a lot of different places to look for a job.  The general youth ministry ones are the Youth Specialties job bank, the Youth Cartel Job Board, and Church Staffing. Don’t limit yourself to those though. A sneaky way of finding local openings would be to look at local Christian College job boards. You don’t have to be a student or alumni to browse their websites. You can also do some direct searching of church websites and if you are really forward go ahead and call churches directly and ask whoever answers the phone if they know of any jobs opening up.  If you are in a denomination you can check with them to see if they have a job board. Another place you could look would be to see if you could find any local youth ministry networks and see what people know. More often than not someone might tell another youth worker they are connected to that they have an opening “or that they will be the opening” before they will tell others.

3. Expanding/Narrowing your search:  I hire a lot of people and I can’t tell you how many resumes I receive sometimes that just don’t make sense. It’s someone who currently works as a church that is theologically opposite of  mine or they have absolutely no experience and are applying for an executive ministry level position.  Know what you qualify for and what you believe and narrow your search down to that.  One thing that I suggest is that you may want to consider finding someone who can coach you through the process.  I’ve done this several times and sometimes it’s my tough questions about what they are looking for and what they think they are qualified for that helps them see where they should apply.  I think it is worth saying that we sometimes need to expand our search when there just doesn’t seem to be any opportunities. That can be tough if you are locked into specific geographic or denominational categories.

4. Pray: Although I’ve listed this 4th this is not a stack ranked blog.  Pray through out the whole process.  I’m going to just believe that you also believe that God opens doors and makes things clear.  A great place to start is to ask God to do just that.  I’ve been in some weird job hunts before where either nothing was showing up or too much was being offered and I needed God to make things clear.  Praying and being in his will at the beginning of this process will help through the whole thing.

 

So here’s what we will talk about:

1. How to start a search process?

2. Where to look for jobs?

3. Think about your fit

4. Start writing your interview questions (you will be interviewing them)

5. Prep Work (be the most informed candidate they have)

6. Resumes, video introductions, cover letters and applications

7. Interviews: Presenting yourself well

8. Interviews: How to get a second one

9. Face to face to face to face. What to do when they bring you in for a weekend?

10. Negotiating 101

11. Negotiating 201

12. Seeking Discernment: Praying, asking friends, checking with family.

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Finding and negotiating for a new youth ministry job

job_interview_funnyIt feels about time for me to write another blog series about jobs.  I have done this a few times over the past bunch of years.  The reason this keeps coming up is I continually find myself in conversations with youth workers who are looking for new jobs and feel like they don’t have a clue how this works.  I’ve joked for a while now that I should be an agent for youth pastors to help them negotiate as they are accepting new jobs.  It’s a knack I have to know how to best make sure that you are asking all the right questions when you are interviewing and before you sign on the dotted line.

I guess since I won’t ever be an agent I should just write about my experiences and see how I can help this way..

I’m not the expert in all of this but I have done it a few times and would love to see what I’ve learned the right and the hard ways help you.  I plan on making myself available to interact via comments or over at the YSNetwork for you to ask questions and get feedback.

 

So here’s what we will talk about:

1. How to start a search process?

2. Where to look for jobs?

3. Think about your fit

4. Start writing your interview questions (you will be interviewing them)

5. Prep Work (be the most informed candidate they have)

6. Resumes, video introductions, cover letters and applications

7. Interviews: Presenting yourself well

8. Interviews: How to get a second one

9. Face to face to face to face. What to do when they bring you in for a weekend?

10. Negotiating 101

11. Negotiating 201

12. Seeking Discernment: Praying, asking friends, checking with family.

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Texting causes creeping informality

Texting-on-Cell-PhonesI saw an article in the Seattle Times this morning that made me immediately think about Youth Ministry. In the article teachers speak to the positive sides of students using blogs, texting and collaborative online tools.  In the opinion of teachers students got high marks for how the organize their thoughts, use style and tone and put together their papers.

But the article points out problems too.  “Creeping Informality” is slowly taking over. Teachers recognize it when it students begin to abbreviate words and use text slang style in their written assignments.   This informality has begun to erode the positive side of the texting movement as students are beginning to show signs of inability to process information outside of bite size chunks and longer projects are a major struggle.

This article made me think about how I interact with people and communicate.   I text a lot.  It’s my primary tool for staying connected to my family ministry team and to a number of students.  It’s an easy way of passing on information quickly and having a discussion but it isn’t the best way.  I find so many times that I have to write out how I am “feeling” as I text that so that the receiver of the message can know how to best read what I’m saying.  And informal conversation like this can get us into trouble as we are way more likely to fire off something quick that we don’t really think through before sending.

Creeping Informality has plaged  the Youth Ministry world for years.  I’m a fairly informal dresser (said while wearing a camp t-shirt and sweats) and often find myself just a little bit too underdressed for situations.  I like to put my feet on my desk too because I find I just think better leaning back.   But I think all of us realize that we need to be careful about how informal we are.  Texting your senior pastor when there is a major youth ministry crises is probably not the best route to go.  Sending a passive aggressive e-mail to a parent is both wrong and likely going to just push off the problem so it’ll blow up in your face later.

So here’s just a couple of quick thoughts to push us all:

1. How much do you use text to deal with issues you are uncomfortable talking about face to face?

2. Do you feel that you have been too informal in conversations with co-workers, parents or students?

3. How has being overly informal in what you wear hurt you?

4. Are there ways we can help students engage faith study in longer chunks breaking them free of their bite sized texting thoughts?

There you go. I’m thinking through these questions too.

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Don’t forget about kids ministry

Last week was a pretty great one at my church because we hosted Vacation Bible Adventure for a whole bunch of kids. vba About 1/2 way through the week though I realized that I was spending a bunch of my time engaging with and encouraging High School and Middle School students. It was a good problem to have.  One of the things we’ve figured out right over the years was how to get our older students connected into the children’s ministry. Students need connection points and for us VBA is a great one because we need so many volunteers.  We had students running recreation, co-leading small groups, doing set up and tear down for events, working in childcare and acting as greeters.  For the most part all of those students were paired up with adults who interacted with them every day for up to 5+ hours.

We are making a big push at our youth ministry to get students involved in the life of the church.   Like most churches we have a lot of students who move into different ministry areas because of their age and grade but just never seem to really get connected.  For us, our children’s ministry is a really good place for us to keep them connected.  Every week we have a team of students who run sound, do hand motions, participate in dramas and act as big buddies for our preschool kids.

So I have two challenges to you as a youth worker.  1. Talk to your children’s director and see if there are already HS and MS kids serving in their ministry. If they are go and cheer them on.  If they are not talk about partnerships that would help you encourage involvement.  It may be something big like a VBA program or something regular like Sunday involvement.  2. Remember that many of the kids in the children’s program will be in your program soon. Building relationships and investing in  them early is a big deal and can pay huge dividend’s as they enter the Youth Department having already seen how you care for students and knowing that you aren’t against the ministry they’ve been a part of for years.

 

 

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What I’m learning about doing youth ministry better by overseeing kids ministry

DSC01951This last year I made a big shift in my career. I went from being a Student Ministries Pastor overseeing mostly Middle and High School to shifting part of my focus all the way down to birth. And I’ve become a better Youth Pastor because of it.

The reality is that for 15+ years I pretty much did youth ministry one way. It was my team and students as the primary relationships and any interaction with parents was a secondary thing.

Now that I work as a “family pastor” and interact with a wide age of children/students over an extended amount of time I’ve realized just how important interacting with and ministering to parents and the whole family really is.

In youth ministry, parents often drop students off without getting out of the car. Our interaction with them is very quick and often without depth or significance. In Children’s ministry it is very different. Parents are involved in programs, in the rooms with their kids, engaged with each other and generally much more present. Consequently, I have the opportunity to spend  more time with them. (Even as I write this I’m watching several moms walk by who have pre-school age kids.) I know that those families will be a part of ministries I lead for the next 18 years of their lives. That’s a big chunk of time and an investment I take seriously.

As I think about those 18 years I envision that a big part of what I need to be doing is to be resourcing those parents and families. In youth ministry, parents often have the mindset that it’s time for them to back away and allow other leaders to be involved in leading their students in the faith journey. That’s not at all how it happens in Children’s ministry. We partner in all things with the families.

Parents are always asking for advice and sharing stories with me about their kids. Together, we walk through major milestones. As I reflect, I think in youth ministry we forget to celebrate these types of milestones with the family.

One last area that I think I’ve learned from working more with children is the reminder of how important the relationships the children’s staffing
team is when considering the whole family, youth ministry included. My advice is to regularly talk to the children’s staff before transitioning students each year.
Ask about what parents will be huge helpers and which ones might be a little bit of a pain. See what they’ve done over the years to maximize relationships and teaching time with specific students. Are there special needs that you need to know about as youth minister? How can you leverage the relationships that have already been built without simply starting them over?

The children’s ministry isn’t your completion. It isn’t something that has screwed up kids either. It should be a big resource for you as you co-labor to minister to families. 

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“The” Future of Youth Ministry is less important than “My” future in Youth Ministry

A lot has been said in recent years about the future of youth ministry. Some great books have been written and much has been mused about what the likely direction things will go. I have read most of the books and to a large extent I agree with what many of the writers are saying. If I had to summarize what I think are the three major trends and shifts in the direction of future youth ministry I would say they are: Intergenerational, Family focused and containing a more robust theological reflection.

If I’m honest though I should admit that I care less about the direction we “think” it will go and more about my continual place within it. I decided to make a list of things that are a part of my present call to youth ministry and how I believe they will continue into my future because it’s what I’m passionate about. This list is in no particular order it’s just things that I think I want to keep focusing on that get me excited to keep doing youth/family ministry after 20+ years. Many of these things line up with what others are saying the future will look like which is great because it shows maybe I’m not completely off base on what I value and think I should focus on.

Here’s my hope is that you do the same thing for yourself. What makes you tick? What gets you up in the morning and excited to do your job? What are the things that you feel are non-negotiable things that you want to hang on to for a long time. Find them and do them and your future in Youth Ministry will be so much brighter and longer.

Mentoring younger leaders- One thing I love doing is caring for people younger than me. I should first say that I believe this is a 2 way street. I gain so much from the perspective of younger leaders and feed off their energy, passion and new ideas. I’ve always be in places where this is an organizational value. I particularly love connecting the right people and getting out of the way to see what happens. I think that many of us older leaders have a lot to offer as we share about our experiences, failures and successes.

More connection to parents/families- An area I’ve gotten more and more convinced is my future is that of whole family ministry. I am no longer satisfied to only be involved with students (and their parents) once they enter into the youth ministry. I want to be involved in their lives from the beginning. I think my future (and I hope all of youth ministries future) will be about more integration between children/youth/family ministries. This is way more than a programmatic hope too. I think that on a developmental level there is a huge need for us to think about the entirety of the family’s experience from birth through college. As a parent myself with three young kids I just see this as more and more of my role and focus. I can speak to parents in a completely different way as I have my own kids now.

Encouraging two-way dialogue between the academy and the church- I am a bit of a closet academic that teaches adjunct youth and family ministry courses. Because I went to school for an awful long time I feel like I actually have the ability to be a bridge between the academic institutions and the church. I think we need to figure out a way for learning to go both ways and there are some of us that are in good spots for that to happen. Maybe a better way to say this is I believe the academy desperately needs the church to help frame and shape the education and skills they are teaching.

A network of influence- I love to network but it’s not simply because I love people. I do it often because I recognize the gifts and skills that people have and I want to put them in the right places to maximize their influence. The National Network of Youth Ministry has had “we are better together” as their slogan for a long time and I believe it’s true. We need to continue building relationships and maximizing gifts and skills. It is easier to be connected to each other and with all the communication tools we have now we need to leverage our networks. I want to keep doing that.

An Advocate for children/youth/parents/families- Ask me what my job description is and I will say I’m an advocate. What I mean by that is I think my job is to speak truth and care for families and always be thinking about how I can do that in every setting. So when a senior pastor makes a comment about middle school students that perpetuates a stereotype I talk to them. When we need to become more intentionally intergenerational I will voice that thought. When we spend significantly more on pipe organs than we do on marriage enrichment I will speak to that.

Push the Intergenerational Envelope- I think a lot of churches do lip service to this area of ministry. Yes we say we care about having the whole church together but in reality it’s often a children’s sermon and then sending children and youth back to their areas. I have a huge heart for the church living in to baptismal vows that in my PCUSA world say we will commit as a church to disciple children and students. Part of my hope is to continue pushing to encourage older congregants and people who wouldn’t normally think of themselves as having much to offer to children and family ministries to step into roles where they are able to use their
gifts. One of my favorite books now is “Sticky Faith” by Kara Powell and Chap Clark. They state that this intergenerational piece has a huge impact on the faith lives of students continuing past high school.