The Ministry Advantage

The Who, What, Where of Staffing

There are two key pieces in churches that help predict strong outcomes: a well thought-out strategic plan and a strong leadership team. Neither happens by coincidence or without considerable thought and effort. People implement plans, so the people who are chosen by a church to lead a congregation need to also be people that God has chosen to accomplish that plan. Not everyone is called to be a church staff person, and it cannot be viewed as “just a career or job”. A true calling to a particular job is God- focused; it is an inner conviction that is a unique commission from God. For church ministry in particular, it is about serving someone else and involves sacrificial giving and living. So hire well, and it will be the greatest investment your church will make to further the redemptive purposes of the Kingdom.

One of the first steps needed for efficiency and effectiveness is a staffing system. This should cover the processes needed to manage staff, such as how to hire a new staff member, documentation and standardization of procedures. Not many pastors enjoy hiring and sometimes firing of staff; having systems will give a clear process of how to hand the unexpected and the planned events.

Before you hire, you need to assess the need. Knowing when to hire is as important as whom you hire. Neither should be guess work, but instead, an analysis of the current and future needs will dictate the timing. Knowing the function first, the position second and the skills and acquired abilities needed to do the job are all important BEFORE the hiring process begins.

It is crucial to remember that a new staff member should only be hired when a church community’s growth can support this new member, and when the hiring aligns with church-wide objectives. Church leadership should forecast twelve months ahead and consider the short term and long term goals they are working toward. Once again, the strategic plan comes to the forefront of planning; review and plan accordingly.

The leadership team needs to analyze the internal and external factors that are affecting the current staff workload, schedule and ability to carry out tasks. The restructuring of current workloads will need to be reviewed to see if additional responsibilities can be shared before hiring a new staff member. How efficiently does the current staff use their time?

Could an existing staff member take on new responsibility? Does an employee have strengths that could be used in a different way?

Hiring Well

The pond is big, deep and wide and it includes people already within the church community, and people outside of the congregation. A clear hiring and recruiting process is needed to find the right fish in the pond. The most qualified person is out there BUT it takes prayer, time and a careful process of filtering candidates as the Ministry Position Description can be attractive to many individuals. Taking time at the front end of the process avoids an uncomfortable scenario of releasing a poor choice of candidate at the back end. Hiring the right person is much easier than firing the wrong person.

Ideally, a church should attract many to the position. A better stocked pond of candidates will allow for a better chance of hiring qualified staff. Networking and staying connected to people who also have potential prospects is a great approach. Keep contact information in a safe place where it can be accessed as the needs arise.

Church wide objectives and demands of the position will dictate whether an in-house applicant or outside applicant should be hired. Internal applications should be reviewed first. If no suitable candidate is found, outside applicants need to be reviewed. As applications are reviewed, it is time to organize them into three piles: not qualified, borderline and qualified. The qualified pile will be taken to the next step: the interview.

The Interview

Interviews reveal the good, sometimes the bad and even the ugly if the questions are asked in a way that allows the candidate to reveal who they are. Interviews take time to prepare, and the questions should be presented in a non-threatening environment and with an objective tone. Hypothetical scenarios with questions that reveal how the individual would handle a situation are helpful in discerning strengths and values. Come with prepared questions that will help discern if this is the right person for this job. Ask additional questions when a resume does not provide enough information for the process. Reference checks, and finding out if there is anything in the past that needs to be shared that will affect the future, is imperative.

How to Choose

When the list is narrowed to a select group of two or three candidates, it is a good exercise to create a spreadsheet to compare candidates, including qualifications, position interest, chemistry, training needs and desire to learn. Many churches use the character, chemistry, competency formula to assess and eliminate possible candidates. Whatever the formula used, it needs to be consistent to meet the needs of the forecasted plan for staffing. Hiring takes time, patience and thoroughness; never take short cuts in hiring because regrets will follow down the road.

Hiring the right person for the right role at the right time is the greatest gift you can give a church to mobilize a vision.

This week’s article is submitted by Russ Olmon, President of Ministry Advantage, and Deb Mertin, Ministry Advantage coach. For more on this and other helpful subjects, go to

For over ten years Ministry Advantage has been one of the premier church resources that provides coaching and training for pastors and church leaders helping them turn their vision into reality.