Hiring Family| Avoiding Nepotism On Church Staffs
It was my choice to recommend the student minister hire to our church’s personnel team. But the decision also had to be validated by the church membership. And the decision to hire the Pastor’s daughter as student minister came with some turmoil.
I wanted the best student minister available to the church. And she was that.
Yes, she was a female being considered for what has typically been a male role. And yes, she was the eldest daughter of my boss, the Pastor.
Our church’s personnel team had their own decisions to make before taking the recommendation to the church, but I also had to think through how her hire would impact my role personally. If hired, she’d be a direct to report to me, and I’d still be a direct report to her dad. Conflict of my interest?
I had to weigh out the consequences if things went wrong—consequences for the candidate, the Pastor, the Church, and me.
Are you in a similar situation? Could you be?
In the church I serve now, multiple employees have family serving on our staff. I don’t believe being an immediate family member of an existing employee should exclude a person from being considered for a position. But if you’re going to consider a hire like this, you need to have clear policies in place to protect those involved and to protect against nepotism.
Beyond a well thought out policy (click here to read my church’s policy), here are other things to consider:
- Is there an appropriate amount of reporting lines in between the two persons? I’d suggest at least two, and ideally more. Family supervising family opens everyone up to trouble.
- Family members who are employees may be held to a higher standard (warranted or not) by church members and by other church staff. If nothing else, more eyes are going to be on the family members. Questioning vacation time? Confidentially? Others can transpose expectations of one person or position to both persons or positions, even if not merited. Is the candidate aware of this?
- Can you manage perceptions—specifically the perception of nepotism? At least quarterly, there needs to be a conversation between you and the staff member who reports to you, addressing any issues (or even hints of issues) related to nepotism.
- Have established air cover. You need to have a direct line to whichever group oversees your paid-staff (elders, personnel team, etc.). I believe in following reporting guidelines, but if your family issue revolves around your supervisor, you need air cover. Establish these in advance with your supervisor’s knowledge.
- Be aware of their exit impact. If one employee leaves the church for good or bad reasons, you’ll potentially lose both of them. Your church’s work productivity can be quickly jeopardized by losing two staff members. This is the trade-off, so it just needs to be considered.
Because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, if you have a committed and productive staffer and they have a family member also inclined to serve the church, then there’s a good chance they’ll also perform at high standards. So in many cases, it’s worth the risks. But know that there are, in fact, risks.
P.S. In regard to the Pastor’s daughter the church hired, it worked out. She still serves on staff, has had a meaningful ministry, and has successfully avoided nepotism.