Really helpful checklist for employment reference check conversations

Thanks SO much to Manager Tools for giving a great framework for reference checking potential employees.

They recommend doing it only once you’re on the brink of offering the person the job. Both to save your time calling lots of references, and also the referee is more likely to talk if they don’t feel like they are prejudicing the person’s chances. It also helps you make up your own mind about someone first.

Then their suggested questions go something like:

“Hi, we are about to offer x a job with our ministry and are now conducting reference checks. They put you down as a referee. Are you happy to answer a few brief questions?”

  1. Can you confirm their dates of employment? (wait for them to give an answer, don’t read out what you have on the CV)
  2. Can you confirm their job title ? (wait for them to give an answer, don’t read out what you have on the CV)
  3. Can you comment on the accuracy of this job description they provided me with?

  4. They told me about project x — can you confirm their involvement? What was the outcome of this project?

  5. What was their best contribution while working with you?

  6. What areas for improvement did they have?

  7. [I’ve added for Christian references] Do you have any areas of theological concern or lack of clarity?

  8. [I’ve added for Christian references] Do you have any questions of moral concern?

  9. We are considering them for x role. How would you assess their suitability?

  10. Would you have any concerns about employing them again, if you had the opportunity?

Ministry staff social events and Christmas functions

What does your church/ministry staff do in terms of social events? How many events involve partners of staff? How many involve kids? Especially as a church staff team gets bigger, and even more so once there are part-time staff involved, this can get very difficult to organise and accommodation and afford!

Personally this isn’t my ‘love language’. I’m more of a ‘when the work gets done, people feel looked after’ person than a ‘when people feel looked after, the work gets done’. But I realise that others are not like me and this is an important thing for them. I also realise that even for those, like me, who don’t gravitate towards this by way of preference, it can still have very positive effects for our relationships and experience of the team.

I asked a bunch of friends from a range of multi-staff churches and parachurches around the country what they do. I was especially interested in:

  • What do you do as an entire staff team… and what do you do as sub-teams (whether ministry team areas or senior staff vs apprentices)?
  • What do you do with staff only? What do you do with staff and their partners? What do you do with staff and partners and kids?
  • Do you do it in a home/church building/park? Or at a restaurant?
  • Who pays? Is it a potluck thing? Or split the bill? Or is it in the ministry budget for the year?
  • Is there any formal component?

If you are only used to one particular approach to these things, and that seems like the ‘normal’ and ‘right’ way to do things you might be surprised how much variety there was among the answers! And how many of the answers were in flux ‘We’re not sure what we’ll do next year’ and ‘I’m not sure if it’s working’ etc.

It’s an interesting thing to stop and think about. Something worth pondering as we evaluate this from time to time is the purpose and value of the time is. What the very clear and concrete value is… and what is the less tangible ‘This is an expression of an underlying principle or core value that we want to embody and express”.

Also worth pondering is how much time, money and energy is worth putting into this? Is there a point where extra time and money produces little tangible benefit in terms of relationships, trust, morale, good will or effectiveness?

Lastly, especially with ‘everybody all in together’ it’s tricky to know what to think about this. Especially when the teams and their families begin to exceed 20 people. At what point does this become symbolic and sentimental?  How often and in what context is this worth engineering?

Some striking things:

  • Everyone, no matter what their personal preference, recognises the value of some staff social stuff, especially at the end of the year.
  • There was a lot of diversity: not everyone does overnight planning retreats, some go out to restaurants but others do BBQs, not all have staff-and-partners things and not all have whole-families-things, several did some staff at a smaller level than the entire staff team.
  • One church budgets for all the transport, accommodation and food for 1) Staff and their partners to go on an annual retreat 2) Staff, partners and kids to have a family fun day (or weekend) and 3) Staff to have an offsite conference.
  • Several teams plan for multiple types of dinners and social events throughout the year.
  • Especially for those who LOVE this kind of stuff, it’s worth taking the time to consider those who don’t. For some on our staff teams these things “hidden costs” of the work: it asks more of their (and their family’s) time, more sort-of-optional-but-not-really additional financial expense, more babysitter goodwill, and more child wrangling.

One standout comment about why one staff leader likes having something that the kids are present at:

  1. I want kids to feel like mum or dad working for church is a win.
  2. I wanna meet and know the kids of my staff team.
  3. I want the spouse and kids to hear the “presidential thank yous” so they know their dad/mum/husband/site is valued at church.  Often they take home the struggles but don’t pass on the encouragements.

Super keen to hear your thoughts, experiences, insights, preferences etc etc

Are we responsible for the outcomes of our Christian ministry? Part 4: The blindspot of theologically justified ministry practice

Part 1: Agency, Power and Responsibility

Part 2: Degrees of responsibility

Part 3: Power, responsibility and Christian ministry

Appendix: the cultural blindspot of theologically justified ministry practices and preferences

  • A particular sticking point for cultural adjustment and ministry effectiveness is rigorously thought-through ministry practices.
  • Traditionalists, whether ‘high’ or ‘low’ church often have very rigorous theological or ethical reasons for their various practices and traditions, that make them unwilling to adjust or change for the sake of adjusting to a new cultural context or for some practical purpose.
  • Examples might include:
    • No musical accompaniment, only organ, simple acoustic music, full band (and how loud the full band is!)
    • Wearing suit and tie to church meeting, wearing smart casual, wearing shorts and thongs.
    • Sombre ‘reverant’ demeanour, casual but ‘discerning’ demeanour, effervescent and raising hands while singing.
    • Preacher in pulpit in clothes that convey seriousness of the role, slightly polished preacher in casual clothes on a stage, self-effacing preacher on the flat level with the congregation interacting with the congregation.
  • This is clear to us when we are analysing ‘old traditions’, but the same thing can happen with new patterns of ministry practice that we have arrived at through theological reflection… but which are not themselves necessarily biblical.
  • In this process is that we can ‘baptise’ our culture or personal preference.
  • These things can every serve as important ‘boundary markers’ that define those with whom we agree,
  • We can also ‘curse’ those from different cultures for whom certain practices don’t have the same connotations as our theological practice traditions say they have.
  • We need to hold our extrapolations and inferences from Scripture more loosely than Scripture itself.

 

Mikey Lynch is one of the directors of Geneva Push and regularly sharing his thoughts here on this Christian Reflections blog.

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