By Josh King
Hiring your first staff member has to rank up there with one of the most challenging tasks a pastor can take on. For one, your congregation has grown to be able to afford it and need it. On the other hand, making mistakes in hiring can cause challenges for a long time. In this post I want to pass on some of the lessons I learned I led our church in making our first hire.
1. Chemistry, character, competency
These are the three C’s of hiring. I have since discovered that just about everyone knows this famous Bill Hybels axiom. When making our first hire I unfortunately did not. Everyone wants a team member who is competent in their area of ministry. Chemistry is really hard to measure before you hire—when possible, spend a long time in the hiring process, introduce others from your church to the potential hire, get their feedback. Character is the most important one of the three Cs.
2. When Possible, hire from within
This approach may be difficult, but it’s best. If you can hire a person who has been serving faithfully in your church, it will be far better. Two of our current staff members have come from within. They were serving in their roles as volunteers before they were paid. This gave us an opportunity to see them in action before being committed. If hiring from within isn’t possible in your context, you may be able to hire staff from a sister similar church with similar culture and convictions. Facilitating this requires you to training volunteers and develop close relationships with other churches.
3. Write everything down.
Write out the job description. Write out staff and cultural expectations. In our church, I want our team to know the spoken and unspoken expectations of a staff person at our church. This includes things like not using church property as your own, being on time to work and all other meetings and not running a personal business while in the office. You think these are common sense, but the tragedy of common sense is that it is not as common as you think.
4. All good things come to an end
Most, nearly all, of those you hire will move on. When you first start hiring you are not probably not paying at the top of the salary scale, so many will need to move on. Some will be fired, others will grow in skill and experience and pursue other opportunities. For this reason I tell all of my staff if they ever begin to feel like it is time to move on, tell me as soon as possible. When you hire, make this very clear.
5. You will probably fail.
I used to put a huge amount of pressure on myself to hire well. I started to talking to some HR people in our church and found out that finding great staff is almost always a “luck of the draw” sort of thing. This freed me up quite a bit. They said, do the best you can, do your homework, call references, eat with them and ask smart questions, but even the best candidates might ultimately turn out to be bad staff. So don’t fret so much. Don’t take this personally; it’s part of it. Move on.
6. Finally, hiring is the beginning.
My mistake in the past was to hire a person and then let them loose with little supervision. I would get frustrated when they stuttered or didn’t really perform in ways I thought they were capable of performing. I’ve learned that staff do far better when I approach the hiring process like coaching. When we make a hire they join the team and then from there on out, I am their coach to help them be the best they can be. This has changed everything.
In my next post I’ll unpack some of what I learned in having to make the painful decision to let a staff person go.
Published October 3, 2017