Three Essential Staff Hires

One of the key challenges with any organization is finding and staffing the best talent. Churches are not unique among organizations even though they have different staffing needs. There are some essential positions that need to be filled and, for many churches, finding the right staff member for these positions can make or break a ministry area.

As I’ve been talking with other ministers and staffing professionals, we’ve noticed that there are three specific positions that are needed in churches. Maybe if we were to title this a bit more provocatively, we’d say they are the Three Fastest Growing Staff Positions.

In short, these three positions (possibly in order of need):

  1. Worship leader
  2. Children’s Minister
  3. Executive/Administrative Pastor


Now, what do we mean here? Well we’re first anticipating that the senior pastor position is filled. A church without a lead pastor (or at least lead communicator) needs to secure that position before anything else. The other three are essential to staffing a growing church.

Worship Leader – more than any other position on staff, the worship leader is of central importance. They are to be the lead worshippers, not superstars or rockstars, not showmen or entertainers. They have the unique calling to lead others into worship and set the tone for a worship service. The skill set required to accomplish that previous sentence is immense, and the calling from God must be just as immense. Yet for a quality, and qualified, worship leader, they are in short supply and great demand. As many of us have seen, the right worship leader can lead us into the holy places of God. The wrong worship leader (even if they have musical talent coming out the ears) can lead us into spiritual wilderness and rob of a church of its greatness. Finding a worship leader who understands they aren’t a rock star and can shoulder the burden of authentic leadership is difficult, but worth every moment of prayer, exploration, and interest.

Children’s Minister – there is nothing more precious in Jesus’ ministry than the children who sat before him and took in his teaching. As he noted in Matthew 19:14, child like faith typifies the earnestness with which we pursue to the Kingdom of God. Having a great children’s minister will help grow the faith of an entire church as the entire family is properly ministered to and reached with the Gospel. For many leaders in new churches, having a great children’s minister is more important than a student/youth pastor. For the one who is called and equipped to minister gently, firmly, and authentically to children and their parents, the pathway for ministry is great. Great children’s ministers understand that their ministry isn’t just to the littlest among us, but also to their parents. They have a platform for instruction unparalleled by almost any in the church, when they minister properly. Just like with worship leaders, children’s minister must be so cautious about their own lives and the lives of the adult volunteers they work with. Jesus words in Matthew 18:6 stand out as one principal text. Yet in the the right hands, a ministry to children grows a church from its youngest to its oldest members with deep roots of firmly planted families.

Executive Pastor – this also includes the administrative pastor role. So many senior pastors of churches have a deep passion for their people but lack the time, or perhaps skill set, to properly look after the daily ministry of a church. Having a quality executive pastor who understand their role is the same as the person who sits in the second chair of the orchestra can help a church and its staff grow and see seasons of faithfulness. Being a senior pastor necessitates involvement in the lives of attenders, members, and staffers. This kind of activity takes time and time devoted here draws away time from administrative and oversight tasks. The executive pastor position provides someone who can, when properly empowered and fully trusted, direct the staff, manage the facilities, align the strategy, and execute the vision at a level that permits the senior pastor to be true under-shepherd to the congregation. It is a challenging position because of the need for a great leader who is willing subordinate themselves publicly to the authority of a senior pastor and upholding the shared vision of the leadership team. This role also requires a refined skill set. Too often the executive pastor can draw their own limelight, but ultimately they must be willing to redirect everything to glorify God.

In all three of these growing staff positions, there are needed skills and even more needed calling. When a young seminarian asks about potential leadership avenues in a church, these are generally the three categories of staff positions I mention if they are uninterested in being a senior, or lead, pastor.

Though just hiring a great staff member won’t grow a church beyond that congregation’s trust in the leadership of the Holy Spirit, it can be a signal of the movement of the Spirit in their midst.

For each of these three positions, there is a growing number of churches looking for individuals who will fulfill these roles. Having great staff members who can impact those in our communities and churches provides a continued basis for growing and thriving churches. These three positions are key staffing positions also reflect the changing nature of ministry in the new century.

So, what staff positions are you looking at hiring? What are key positions in your church that go unfilled but are vitally needed?


Staffing Models in Churches

How do you staff a church?

In the contemporary church landscape there is likely few things which are full of mystery and frustration as the nature of staffing the church. For many non-profit organizations, finding and supporting new talent is one of the pressing issues.

Since most churches operate within budgetary constraints, far too many running at deficits most years, being able to appropriately find quality employees and then compensate them, is one of the larger barriers to moving forward.

However, there are some strategies for staffing a church, or ministry, that have varying results. Though many senior and executive leaders might not think about their staffing approach in terms of models, when considering various churches there does appear to be some common approaches.

Perhaps some common sports metaphors might help us explore three primary means of hiring. In the three major sports leagues there are, essentially, three types of recruiting that are employed.

NFL – The NFL is often about finding the best option for your team at that time. If there is a gap at wide receiver, you find the best possible wide receiver for you team. Sometimes teams are able to have several good options at one position, but high potential back ups usually don’t last long and are moved to other teams. It is often the case that the best potential player for a position doesn’t turn out well and within the year they are needing to be replaced. Since cap room is always an issue for many teams, decisions have to be made about going after high quality (and high cost) players over allowing a good option to stay in place. Highly successful NFL franchises are able to find players for positions at multiple levels and create deep benches. These teams are consistently in the playoffs and don’t have to deal with high levels of drama and off-field issues. One additional action for NFL is the ability to coach up underperforming or underdeveloped players to allow them to gain the skills for use on the field. Well coached teams have higher track records for success across the long run. For the NFL, staffing their teams begins by seeing what the needs are and addressing them with whatever options are available. 

MLB – One of the things baseball has done well for decades is recruiting a host of potential players and allowing them to journey through an intentional process of cultivation and development known as the minor leagues so they can prepare for their time in the game. Players that are recruited out of high school and colleges can expect to spend several years, or more, in the minor league system working on their skills and learning the game. The mentality in many baseball franchises is a long-tail development curve where players are given time to either make the cut and move up, or wash out. Every year 1,500 players are drafted into the MLB, but only 1,200 are in the Majors at any given time. As you can see from this list, only a handful of players have ever gone from draft to a Major League field. For the MLB, staffing their teams is a developmental process that seeks to invest in players to help them find their potential or move on.

NBA – The NBA is all about the star. You can turn your whole franchise around with just the right person regardless of what position they play. While the NBA has recently moved to recognizing a developmental role with their minor league system, a highly talented player with the right skill set can still be moved from college, or another league, and into a starting role for an NBA team from their draft day to the first day of the season. Scouts and team executives are constantly looking for the best franchise options because the addition of one or two star players can move a team from last place to the playoffs, and possibly a title, within a single season. Stars dominate the NBA and each franchise is looking for to find or get a high talent start. Stars seeks validation and expect a starting role. Bench players can add a lot for a team though their contributions will be muted due to the substantial lack of playing team between stars and bench players. For the NBA, staffing their teams is a process that seeks to find high caliber players and move them into roles that will immediately help the team.

In our churches and ministry organizations we can see three different staffing models play out. Granted, for far too many churches there is no comprehensive staffing strategy or solution for identifying and hiring talent. Honestly, most organizations depend on a NFL style system while hoping to move into a NBA method. The costs, both in financial and human resource capital, of the MLB system can sometimes be prohibitive for its implementation in many churches. However, for larger ministries that adopt a residency model or higher level internship program, the MLB style staffing solution can provide tremendous outcomes.

Any of the models allows for a grassroots development of members of the church or ministry to be identified, coached up, and put into ministry roles. This can have differing results. You can sometimes find a high quality player in the middle of your congregation, but you can also find individuals who never reach their potential for any number of reasons.

As we consider what it takes to effectively staff any organization, the leadership will set the tone and direction. If the leadership believes that a new star will help raise the visibility of their overall ministry, or just a certain area, then they should go out and find someone who can do just that while making room for proper validation in compensation and platform time. However, if resources are limited being able to find and raise up members through a development and coaching process can be helpful.

While most churches and ministries still use a scattershot approach to staffing where they post a job and then sort through the resumes for qualified candidates, some have moved to using high quality staffing agencies to identify and place talent according to their talent. These search firms are staffed with people who understand the challenges and opportunities of ministry, can quickly evaluate the needs of a church along with potential candidates, and have a wide net which identifies great talent that ministry leaders might never hear of or personally encounter. Several of the larger church staffing firms who do well in finding candidates include: The Shepherd Staff, Vanderbloemen Group, Minister Search, and the Slingshot Group.

How you go about staffing your ministry will has a major impact on so much of the growth and sustainability of your ministry. Having a plan in place and working that plan depends on the foresight and vision of the leadership.

How have you seen staffing strategies work, or not work, in churches? What are some examples you would use in staffing? How is this model helpful? How can it be improved?

Jul 2013