If your church wants to hire and retain capable, godly staff–the most important thing a church can do in the hiring process is prepare itself to be a good habitat in which to serve the Lord. Such an environment is supportive, offers freedom proportionate to giftedness and level of responsibility, and has leadership that views encouragement/stewardship of staff as a vitally important ministry.

The other component to consider before hiring is obviously the person and role being hired. Most churches should hire leaders of ministry, rather than implementers. One exception to this is if your church is one in which there will be little to no genuine freedom to do ministry. In such a case, you’ll want to look for someone who understands that and is fine with it.

For instance, some preachers enjoy preaching because they enjoy sermon preparation and teaching God’s Word. They really don’t want to have much to do with other aspects of ministry. Others enjoy leadership and see preaching as an aspect of leadership. One fits best as a Preaching Minister in a smaller church. Another as more of a “Senior Minister” in a larger church. Guess which is which 🙂 Hiring these candidates into the wrong churches will lead to difficulties.

Before you hire, it’s vitally important the church discover:

  • Who you are looking for.
  • Whether you can provide the minister with the tools and support (especially in the face of adversity) to carry out the mission they’re given.
  • Whether the person you are considering is gifted and pre-disposed in personality for that ministry.
Here are a few reasons why (not an exhaustive list):
  • Some church leaderships seek to hire someone to do something they don’t have the courage to do themselves. That won’t change when the new minister shows up. The leadership will still likely lack the courage to do what they need to do. So, when the new minister tries to do what they were asked to do…they end up hung out to dry and locking horns with leadership who now says something like, “We thought we were ready,” “We didn’t know you wanted to do that,” or something like that.
  • Some are drawn to a leader’s personality and vision, so they hire them only to find out they don’t like at all one of leaders’ defining traits: a willingness to destabilize the emotional system of the church for the sake of mission. So, before you hire someone who fits that bill, make sure you understand what you are getting.
  • Other churches are drawn to a candidates perceived meekness, humility, and theological depth. They then hire them into a leadership post only to find they lack the leadership capacity to persuade, equip others, and understand more practical ministry concepts.
  • Some church cultures are mirrors of the culture of their town/city. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone referred to as “not much of a people person” or “not real friendly” when in reality, they simply had a different way of relating to people. The church is a hugging place, the minister is a handshaker, for instance. Or, let’s say a minister comes from a fast-paced city into a rural environment. They buzz around the building on Sunday, and it makes them come across as pre-occupied and distant for the same reason they were lauded as hard-working where they grew up. It’s obviously possible for people from one culture to enter another and serve the Lord effectively. It just tends to work best when they arrive with a missionary mindset, and the church embraces their “otherness.” Cultural fit does matter.
  • Do they fit with the other staff members? Here I’m referring to those on staff they simply must work closely with and the preacher in particular. If they don’t fit, you’re going to make them and everyone they work less effective. The most important areas of fit: how they handle conflict and work ethic.