Hiring Well, Part One

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On the whole, I get more questions from other church leaders about hiring staff and getting them to work well together than I do any other question. It seems that many well-meaning churches struggle to find and retain capable, godly people who work well as a team. So, I thought I'd do a bit of a mind dump this week, offering you some thoughts on the hiring, team-building process–for whatever it's worth. These won't be organized particularly well, and are intended for the good of the Body. I know there are a lot more knowledgeable people on the subject (many who read this blog, in fact), so feel free to add your own thoughts. Here we go…

It begins with church culture.

While some churches and denominations, without question, overestimate the importance of the "clergy," in my experience, most Churches of Christ drastically underestimate the importance of ministers in the overall well-being, health, and growth potential of the local church.

There are several reasons for this notion. Among them are:

  • In the very old-school way of thinking, paid ministers are unbiblical. If you ask me, so is that statement.
  • "Every member a minister" leads us to believe that anyone should be and is able to do anything, as long as their gender and age is appropriate 🙂 This means that ministers exist as a matter of convenience…to do work that there aren't enough members to do. This not only doesn't make sense, it flies in the face of what the Bible says about spiritual gifts and the Body's functioning.
  • Springing from the previous point is the "hireling" syndrome. Would you want to serve in an environment where
    you didn't feel particularly needed or valued? Me either. It's not about ego. It's
    about wanting to serve in a place where God can use you to the fullest.
  • If the hireling syndrome takes an ugly turn, the church can come to believe that because ministers are paid, the church owns them and should be able to say whatever, do whatever, and get them to do whatever they want. There is nothing of Gospel in this. Thus, God won't bless such churches, and ministers won't stay long in them either…nor should they.
  • Ministers have drastically underperformed in the past…leaving the church feeling as though their money was wasted, and that they can do better for less by just turning it over to the body. In some cases, this may be true. Usually not.
  • Poor hires of the past have stained the optimism of elders and members toward staff in general. It's like a girl who seems to always pick the wrong guy–eventually she takes on a "all/most men are…" attitude.

The end result of this is a drastic underestimation of the importance of the roles that ministers–whether pulpit, children, youth, worship, etc.–can play in the overall well-being of the church. This carries over into the hiring process, as the church doesn't take enough care to hire the best possible people…in part because there is limited vision as to whether or not it makes much of a difference any way.

It's not that ministers are the end all, be all…by any means. Ministers are people usually trained and experienced at serving the Lord in special ways. This doesn't preclude "every member a minister." On the contrary, having a capable staff helps God's people be more effective. Any minister worth his or her salt will be relentlessly devoted to equipping God's people for ministry and empowering them to do so. However, for them to be effective doing so, they need to know how to do ministry as well…and the church needs them to know how.

Hiring well begins with an understanding of the importance of it–of having capable…even ridiculously gifted people who are relentlessly committed to Gospel, Kingdom, and Church–who love people and are striving to live a holy life. When this is in place, the church will not only focus intently on trying to attract and retain high-caliber staff–they will do everything they can to feed their inner fire for ministry–and thus retain them longer.

More tomorrow…we'll talk about the Hiring Process.

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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