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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.