I recently received a Twitter request to provide guidelines for hiring additional church staff. Not too long ago, you could add staff according to a clear formula, typically one full-time minister for every 100 to 200 in worship attendance.
Unfortunately, it is usually not best to approach adding staff in a formulaic fashion today. Most churches do not add staff according to a programmatic approach. You could, in the past, know that the first staff was a pastor, followed by either music or education, and then followed by age-graded ministers such as students or children.
Today, the decisions are much more fluid and much more contextual. I must have an extended conversation with a church leader before I can even begin to suggest additional staff. So, instead of answering the Twitter request directly, I will approach it inversely. I thus offer seven occasions when a church should not hire additional staff.
- When it takes ministry away from the laity. There has been a tendency in a number of churches to bring on staff as ministry hired hands. The laity thus pay the staff to do the work of ministry. That approach is both unwise and unbiblical. A new staff minister should demonstrate that he or she will actually increase the number of people who will do the work of ministry.
- When you add staff according to the way you’ve always done it. Church practices are changing rapidly. Communities are changing. Technology is advancing. When a church is considering adding new staff, the leadership should see it as an opportunity to reevaluate what the needs in both the church and the community are.
- When it’s not a smart financial decision. There will be times when a church should take a step of financial faith to add a staff person. But that doesn’t mean that such a decision is done without prayer, study, and good stewardship. Make certain you are comfortable that the resources for the new staff will be available.
- When a particular group in the church pushes its own agenda. It is not unusual for groups in a church to want their “personal minister” to take care of their needs. Make certain that the addition is best for the entire church, not just a select few who might have influence or money.
- When a friend needs a job. Don’t hear me wrongly on this point. I am not saying that a church should never bring on a friend of the pastor, staff, or some church member. I am saying that an addition should not take place only on the basis of that friendship.
- When it’s just to copy another church. I’ve seen it many times. A church, usually a large church, has a new and creative way of adding and naming new staff positions. It won’t be long before I see churches all across the country making identical decisions. Certainly it’s okay to emulate a church if it’s best for your church. But don’t add staff just because another church is doing it.
- When you are unwilling to deal with a current ineffective staff member. Here is the scenario. A current staff member is obviously ineffective in his or her current role. So that person is moved to another role, sometimes a role that does not add true value. Then a person is hired to fill the role once held by the ineffective staff member. This workaround results in a bloated personnel budget and, usually, poorer morale among the effective staff. Be willing to make the difficult decisions before adding new staff.
I would love to hear from you about how your church makes staff addition decisions. I always learn more in these posts than I offer to the readership. I look forward to learning from you.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on February 22, 2014. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and nine grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.