Posted in Church Staff

Filters For What Staff Position to Hire Next

This post originally was written as a guest post for Travis Stephens. Check out his blog, “Helping Small Town Churches Go Big.”


Most churches in North America have only one staff member—the pastor. Some of those pastors have quarter or part time staff to assist them, and many simply rely on committed volunteers to help do the ministry of the church. But as the solo-pastor led churches grow in size or even ministry complexity, it will usually require an additional staff member.

If so, how does a church determine what position is the most important positon to hire next?

I’ve witnessed four common (but flawed) approaches for determining which staff positions to create next:

  1. Replicating what other churches are hiring

There is not a one size fits all staffing model for churches. Yet, church leaders ask their peers from other churches what positions they’ve hired. But often these peers and their churches do not have much in common with their own church. It’s not apples to apples. Many times the church you’re asking has a different church culture, church size, and community.

  1. A historical approach: “What’s always been done?”

Throughout church history (and even modern church history) there’s been value placed on certain church staff positions and rightfully so. But times change, and what made sense for a church’s second staff position in 1970 or 1990 doesn’t make as much sense in present times.

  1. Basing position selection with a particular person in mind

A church will focus on a person they know well even if they’re not ideal for the position the church needs. With some exceptions, beginning with a person in mind doesn’t allow you a comprehensive process for determining the best position. The conversation happens this way:

I like Bob. He’s energetic. I’d like to work with Bob. What is Bob qualified to do? Okay, then let’s hire that position and fill it with Bob.

Instead, think position determination before person determination. Switching those around can cause problems.

  1. Hiring the position the church’s “power-broker” says should be hired

We like to think a church doesn’t fall victim to this, but often a founding family or someone with money or influence may give a directive about the next staff positon they think should be hired. But just because they have deep pockets or have been at the church since Noah doesn’t mean their nephew or next door neighbor is the next best person to hire or that the ministry area they love the most deserves a staff position.

While each of those approaches may have some merit, each falls short of the best decision for your church.

If these fall short, what approach can you use to determine what second staff person is needed for your church?

The answer is a position that aligns growth and strategy.

Growth Hires

This is not future growth, but actual growth. The kind of growth that requires a response of more manpower. When this growth happens, you create a new position and fill it with a person because growth demands it. Again, it’s not aspirational growth, but actual growth.

The most recent growth hires we’ve made have come by way of adding new campuses (multi-sites). We started with a skeleton staff at the new campus, and guess what? People came. Many came with babies. We needed to care for children, lots of children, and care for them well. So we hired for a growth position, in our preschool and children’s ministries.

Another example: if your “small town church” builds a new worship center, and you double or triple your church’s square footage, you may need to hire a custodian or facilities manager.

Strategic Hires

When you hire for strategy it may or may not have current growth factored in. Many times strategic hiring is done to allow for growth. To bring forth future growth. When you hire a strategic staff position, you believe the ministry area this position would serve is strategic in nature. It matches the vision to which you believe God has called your church, and it demands putting the resource of personnel to that strategic ministry area.

As an example, your church’s music ministry may have grown by 5-10% over the last two years. And it would make sense to put personnel dollars toward a music positon. But your church’s vision includes ministering to the burgeoning young family demographic in your town. While your church may not reflect a young family demographic yet, you believe this is what God has called you to do. So before any growth has occurred, you decide to make the next staff position a family minister. This is a strategic hire.


Best case scenario: Hire a position that is both growth and strategy

This best case scenario for hiring occurs when growth has begun to happen in an area that your church has determined is really strategic to church’s ministry as you look to the future.

Growth and strategy align. You hire for the growth that is occurring, and you hire for the likely growth that will occur as you add personnel to that strategic area. This alignment makes the decision point for position selection much easier.

An example, we have a multi-year strategy to minister to families who have special needs children. With existing volunteers and part-time personnel, we had seen growth in this ministry area. We saw early on that more growth was possible, but we had a limited capacity with the personnel we had. So we’ve chosen to put more personnel in this ministry area. The part-time position will become full-time and we’ve added dollars to the ministry budget. When a position is both growth and strategy—that’s your position to hire.

Every church has limited resources. Most churches also have the skeptical church member asking, “Why hire another staff person?” With these in mind, your church needs to hire not only the right person, but determine the right position to hire.

There have been many ministers who no longer have a job at a church, not because they were the wrong person, but rather, because the church decided on the wrong position to hire.

Determine new staff positions based on growth and strategy, and I believe your church and community will clearly see the value added when the position is filled.

For more, see a sample staffing model that shows how to capture growth and strategy via a PDF, or read my previous post on creating a church personnel budget.

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The Benefits of the Exit Interview (free template)

The exit interview, done well, is a…

  • Discovery tool
  • Bad hire redeemer
  • An informal evaluation of employees supervisor and your church systems
  • Confirmation of the things you and your church are doing well

When an employee leaves your staff, your first reaction is not to ask them to complete another assignment and then schedule a sit down meeting. But, whether you “want” to do it or not, the exit interview form and meeting are valuable.

Whether the employee is leaving with grievances, or is simply leaving because their spouse is being moved out of state, an exit interview makes sense. The feedback collected in the exit interview will help you as a leader, your church, and it communicates to the employee their experiences with you and perspective matters.

Our church has a fairly comprehensive exit interview template. And for readers, I’ve provided it on my resource page, free for use in the “Onboarding/Offboarding section.”

The reason for the employee’s exit will determine how much of the exit interview template we use, and how we conduct the interview meeting.

We provide the exit interview questions to them in advance (we may remove some questions depending their unique situation). We ask them to respond to the questions in writing prior to our meeting. Then, together at the in-person meeting the employee overviews their responses for those in the meeting. The “who” in the exit interview meeting needs to be determined for each church. It may or may not include their direct supervisor, but it should at least include someone higher in the employee’s line of reporting, and it could include a volunteer leader, maybe someone from your church’s personnel team or an Elder.

One of many upsides for an exit interview is that it can bring learning from what’s an unfortunate departure. They’ll be times when you’ve made a bad hire (but I’ve written 13 previous posts about avoiding this by hiring right for your church staff). And at some point, bad hires leave. When that happens, the exit interview can be serve as a redemption tool.

The redemption tool: the exit interview.

Okay, “redemption” tool may be a little strong, but if done correctly, it does benefit you and your church enough to lessen the blow a bad hire. It can provide you insight for what went wrong in the selection process, onboarding process, or in ongoing supervision of an employee.

Listen to your exiting employees. Be willing to hear the good and the bad about you, your staff and church. Take advantage of this real-time, usually unrestrained feedback from an employee. The exit interview is a valuable tool.


p.s. As I mentioned earlier, if you’d like to view our Exit Interview template and perhaps borrow ideas, feel free. If you want more information about personnel practices from the creation of a job description, the initial interview phone call all the way to the exit interview, our church’s Selection Tool Kit is available for a minimal cost on our church’s resource site, and includes over 25 PDF’s related to the selection process for churches.

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Planning a staff retreat (sans strategy)

This week our church’s ministerial staff will be on retreat. Once a year we take two and half days away. While we’re there on this annual outing, here’s what we don’t do:

  • Plot the next year’s activity calendar
  • Wordsmith our church’s mission statement
  • Review ministry opportunities and determine the wins/losses of our efforts

Instead, we strive to: Connect to God and each other.

That’s it. It’s a simple purpose, and it’s easy to plan. When I am planning each time-slot, all I ask is – will this time help our staff connect to God and each other?

I’ve written before about why strategy conversations are critical to church staffs. I also do my share of calendar planning, wordsmithing strategies, and reviewing a lot of our staff’s activities. But at this retreat, I think it’s best to pull away from that, both literally and figuratively.

Here’s what we do include in the retreat:

  • Teaching from our pastor
  • An outside guest who can bless and encourage our souls through teaching
  • Worship led by an outside leader, so every staff member can engage as a worshipper (and not a leader of worship)
  • Solitude
  • Suggested soul-care exercises
  • Late-night World Series watching. Due to the time of year, usually a whole bunch of people gather around the common room’s TV to watch a game.
  • Recreation (Wiffle ball tends to be our favorite) I highly encourage everyone to participate in recreation time… even if they don’t play, I want them there to laugh and encourage people (or make fun of others’ lack of athleticism).
  • A whole lot of eating…the best fellowship usually occurs during our meals together.

The pace is slow. I want to suspend our rushed lives, even for two days. There’s margin left in the agenda so our staff have more time to get to know each other deeper, and so they have adequate times to take their spiritual disciplines to a deeper level.

Does your staff have time to pull away and just be? A time when your focus is about relationships with God and each other?

Whether a retreat or half day away from the office, you’ll find significant value in unplugging from the ministry work routine, and retreating.

When you have a large group, it’s hard to satisfy everyone’s desire. You’ll hear lots of opinions about what should and shouldn’t have been included in a retreat. But here’s what I’ve determined about this retreat… they may not love everything that’s planned, but it’s going to be hard for them to not have connected with God and others while away. And that makes it worth it.

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