Someone once asked me, “Jonathan, we’re looking for a new youth pastor. What would you look for in a youth pastor?”
What would you say?
Kids like them?
(Those are the ones I hear from people frequently.)
To be honest (see what I did there?), none of those three above make my top three. Sure, they’re great qualities. In fact, being “organized” is probably the fourth most important quality on my list. It’s very important…but not as important as these three below.
Here are the top three qualities I’m looking for in a leader, and some ways you can test to see if they have them. Then…what is the top quality you look for? (Chime in, in the comments.)
The first thing I look for in any interview is humility. When I ask questions, do they come across like they know all the answers, or as someone who is a fellow learner? (Because I’m still learning, so I’d rather work with others who are still learning.) In fact, do they demonstrate an eagerness to learn (not just a willingness)? Do they want a mentor? Are they open to suggestions?
One way I seek to discover this is by asking behavior-based questions, asking for examples from past behavior. I might ask, “Tell me a lesson you learned the hard way this last year.” Or, “What is something you learned from a mentor recently that you were able to apply in your ministry?” In fact, when I call their references, I’d ask them specifically for examples of teachability they noticed in this person.
Why such the big focus on humility?
Because humility trumps everything! I know, it almost sounds counterintuitive. But Jesus taught this, laying out the cause/effect relationship between humility and leadership (Matthew 5:5). Jesus also modeled this (John 13). Humble leaders are the best leaders. In fact, humility is actually the key to Christianity—the admission that we can’t do it on our own and we need a savior. Those who don’t humble themselves are rather shortsighted. Humility is unavoidable. If we humble ourselves, we’ll be exalted. If we exalt ourselves, we’ll be humbled (Matt 23:12).
Do they need Jesus? Do they demonstrate this?
Watch out for the person who thinks, “I’ve got this humility thing handled!”
Does this person’s yes mean yes (Matthew 5:37)?
This trait is rapidly becoming extinct in our world. I can’t tell you how many times people tell me they’ll do something…and nothing happens. They don’t even think twice about it. “I didn’t have time.” “Something came up.”
I always just want to reply, “No, you just don’t come through whenever it gets tough!” (Psalm 15:4)
A good way to test this is give them some small tasks as part of the application process. Ask them their preferred method of contact, then contact them that way and see when they respond. Ask them how soon they can complete an application and then note when they actually turn it in. Make an appointment with them (if they’re local), show up early and note what time they get there. If someone shows up late to an interview…that is an omen, my friend!
The best way to test this is to start by hiring people in a temporary position and observe how they work. This isn’t always possible if you want to hire someone from New York and you live in Texas. But even then, I’ve seen churches hire a position for one year, with full disclosure that they will re-evaluate at the end of the first year.
We need people who will actually do what they said they’d do.
3. A Team Player
Does this person play nice with others? Do they have a history of building a team of leaders around them, or do they like to do it alone…“because if you want something done right you have to do it yourself!” Do they see the importance of recruiting volunteers?
A huge part of this is the ability to recruit and equip volunteers…a skill completely unrecognized and devalued in many ministry circles. Has this person ever done the math and realized they can get more done if they can delegate to others (the second most important quality of a leader according to Forbes).
Ask this person, “Tell me about the last team of people you worked with.” “What did you like/dislike about working with them?” “How many volunteers did you start with…and did you end up with?”
Don’t hire the Lone Ranger (I’m showing my age with that example).
* * *
These are just the top three. I also value work-ethic (are they a self-starter), organizational skills, ability to teach…and do they like deep dish pizza instead of that skinny stuff you have to fold over?
These three above give me insight to the foundation of our faith—loving God and loving others. It starts with humility and dependency on God, then integrity, then flows to how well they treat others.
What about you?
What are the qualities you look for?
How do you discover these?
For more helpful resources for hiring like job descriptions, interview guides, etc., jump on our FREE Logistical Crud page. Also take a peek at our top selling book on the subject of recruiting, training and leading volunteers, THE NEW BREED.
Jonathan McKee is the president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over 20 books, including the brand new If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller – The Guy’s Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife, Lori, and their three kids live in California.
This article originally appeared here.