Before You Hire – Questions for Churches

Hiring quality ministers and “liberating” ministers that need to transition is one of the most important things your church can do. Staff problems create more drag and consume more energy than nearly any other kind of problem. However, when staff are working together, it blesses the church with excellence, nimbleness, horsepower, and a culture of fun.

Here are some questions to ask before you hire new church staff:

  • Are we willing to support them when they are attacked by unhealthy church members?
  • Can we afford to pay this person a fair wage without resenting or worrying about the money we’re paying them?
  • Are both the elders and Senior Minister sold on both the role and the person we’re considering hiring? If not, the odds of problems at least double.
  • Does our church have a track record of quick/frequent staff departures? Why? Be honest.
  • Who is most likely to be critical of this hire? Are we ready to confront these people for the sake of the church’s long-term future? If not, don’t hire.
  • Are we looking for someone to lead an area of ministry? If so, can we define what that leadership looks like?
  • Are you looking for someone to, primarily, do tasks of ministry assigned them by someone else? If so, you usually shouldn’t hire. That can be done by volunteers. Hire leaders, not doers. There will always be some doing involved. But, you’re looking for someone capable of gathering and equipping God’s people for ministry. Someone followable.
  • How much freedom are we willing to grant this person for ministry without coming to leadership for permission first?
  • When someone steps forward with a new idea or direction, what is the usual reaction?
  • How does the church typically process that reaction? If the church typically comes to a halt under such circumstances, you are likely to have higher turnover and neuter the effectiveness of the staff you hire. How the church handles conflict will determine MUCH.
All of these questions address the church system–which is often a more important indicator of staff longevity and health than the people hired. That may sound like an overstatement, but it isn’t.  Healthy church systems help healthy ministers flourish, nurture inexperienced ministers, and create a habitat in which a dysfunctional or lazy minister cannot remain.
It’s worth having conversations about what kind of church environment you want people to serve in. Cultivating a ministry-friendly habitat prepares you to recruit and maintain quality staff. If your church isn’t interested in doing that, don’t hire. It’ll be an expensive, painful, time-consuming mistake.
The church system is the most important part of the hiring process. Make no mistake. Who you hire matters. What you hire them into matters even more.
Thoughts? Agree or Disagree?

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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