Tag Archive: 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.

Continue Reading

The Pitfalls of Hiring Church Members on Staff

It can be a mistake for your church.

Or it could be a win.

Sometimes it’s the path of least resistance.

And sometimes it’s exactly the right decision.

Hiring church members onto your church staff can cause problems. Not unlike hiring family members (previous post on nepotism on church staffs), there are benefits for doing this as well as drawbacks. In both cases, the drawbacks often have more wide-ranging impact.

An unwise hire can not only affect the work done at the church, but also potentially the individual’s relationships with the church or with God. Most problems can be minimized by good communication during the hiring process (previous post on our hiring process). As church leaders, we need to communicate with our staff early, often, and thoughtfully regarding what they can expect in their role, what our expectations of them are, and what the implications are if these don’t match.

But, before you begin communicating what it means for a church member to take a position on your church staff, you first need to deal with it philosophically. While not comprehensive, here are a few questions to help you do that.

  • What’s your church’s track record? If you’ve hired church members onto your staff before, have they succeeded? If not, was the work the only thing impacted, or did it leak into their church membership (i.e. the way they felt about the church)?
  • How important is it that the individual in that specific role knows the DNA of your church? (This answer will vary based on type of position: custodial, administrative, minister, director, etc.)
  • Do you believe the person is capable of keeping the confidentialities of the work?
  • Are they mature enough in their Christian walk to appropriately separate their role on staff from their role as a church member?

If you decide that you’re open to hiring existing church members onto your staff, then you need to practice problem avoidance (a previous post’s topic).

Make sure your church and prospective staff members have clarity on the following issues:

Being on staff is not like volunteering. Many prospective employees might think being on church staff is like being a volunteer, but with pay. There are a lot of differences, and you need to let them know what they are.

Being employed by a church doesn’t mean everything is “ministry” in nature. Many church members don’t realize how much business and “corporate” work happens behind the scenes. They have high hopes of their work directly being tied to benevolence or baptisms, and may become disenfranchised quickly when they don’t see their output tied to actual ministry.

Working in a faith- and grace-based environment doesn’t mean you get a pass on performing well. Many think because it’s a church, there won’t be standards, reviews or improvement plans. But the church is God’s choice of institutions to bring people to Him — we should set the bar for excellence.

Their experience in their work environment can (and likely will) affect their spiritual experience. Many church members who want to be on staff think there will be no conflict when their work and their church membership intersect. And certainly, there can be a positive benefit of working where you worship. However, there can also be a negative result from mixing these two worlds.

For example, an employee’s work as an assistant to their pastor may make them appreciate all that’s involved in the role of the pastor. They may see the dedication involved in preparing a sermon or they’ll get a glimpse of the kind of care a pastor provides to people in need. Then again, the pastor may have a bad day on Thursday, be unkind or impatient with the assistant, and suddenly, it’s three days later, and their pastor is leading communion and the only thing the employee can think is, “He treated me a like a jerk last week!” Now their work environment has suddenly negatively impacted their spiritual environment.

When church members consider joining your staff, it presupposes that your specific church was first their place of worship, discipleship, and community. Likely, this is paramount to them – and as a church leader, I hope it’s also paramount to you.

So when I’m meeting with a church member who’s applied for a staff position, I try to communicate that by taking this job, they’re jeopardizing their current relationship with the church.

It seems negative to put it that way – and of course I hope it doesn’t come to that. But the truth is, they’re putting that possibility on the table by being employed by their church. I hope their employment furthers their love and commitment to the church – but if it doesn’t, they need to be aware of the wide-ranging impact on other areas of their life.

It’s important that you as a church leader and employer have clarity about these potential risks. My experience is that we’ve been able to successfully employ many church members who’ve thrived in both worlds. These church members and staff are productive in their work, and also growing in Christ-likeness. That being said, it’s still a risk. And because we as leaders should care most about the church being a place of discipleship for them, we need to assess the inherent risks, lead conversations about them, and choose wisely.

Continue Reading