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.