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?


Building a Young Church: Part One Honest Analysis

Young adults are one of the most attractive demographics for many church and ministry leaders for growth and involvement.

There are lots of reasons for this, but perhaps most significant is that a young church feels like a vibrant church.

As a minister who has, and is, working with young adult ministry, it might be good to have a several part exploration of what it means to build and sustain this idea of a young church. Since my time in seminary I’ve had many conversations with ministry leaders who tell me, “We want to have a church full of young people.” By this they usually mean young adults, ages 20-35. They often mean post-college singles (though a vibrant college ministry is important) to married adults with young children.

Particularly in my home denomination, its almost bragging rights for a pastor who is over 50 years old to say, at your annual convention, or Catalyst Conference, “We’ve reached 1,000 young adults” this year.

While attracting and keeping young adults is a ministry target, what does it take to do this?

To begin this conversation, it is necessary to talk about confronting the brutal facts.

By this I mean, asking several key questions to help determine your perspective. These questions include:

  • What is the average age of our adult (18+) regular attender (2+ times a month)?
  • What is the average age of our senior leadership?
  • What is the average age of our primary platform and public faces?
  • How are we communicating to young adults?
  • What is the age demographic in our immediate zip codes?


When a church or ministry leadership team can sit down and provide honest answers to these questions the goal is to allow for a clear picture of reality and to be able to evaluate the actual possibility of reaching young adults.

If the average age of your connected adult (18+) population is above 45 years old, you’re already two life stages away from relationally connecting with young adults. This isn’t an obstacle that isn’t overcome, but it should help create realistic expectations of what reaching young adults looks like. Older churches, generationally, can reach young adults but they must do so with validated experiences that are outside the primary gathering times and which have higher concentrations of young adults per capita. In other words, you have to be willing to pay the price and move outside of Sunday morning to reach young adults if you’re an older church.

PrintThe second question is even more important than the first. The truth is young church staffs are vital in reaching young adults. This doesn’t inherently mean the senior leader must be below 50, but it does mean that as a ministry your only as young as your core leadership core. If that team (which doesn’t have to be only staff people, it can include lay people) have more people over 45 than under 35 you’re not a young staff. A whole host of other challenges come with this, not only the means of communicating inter-generationally. It also means that the leadership can misunderstand (or just simply not understand) the unique challenges and opportunities that young adults in the 21st century face.

Our second question then immediately bleeds over into our third. You can have an older church leadership team and still reach young adults. However, if the primary platform time is occupied by people over 40 years old you won’t effectively connect with 20somethings. This also goes for publications and public events. One way some churches with established leadership teams have made the move to reach young adults is by validating the primary service, or ministry avenue, where they attend and (outside the primary communicator for the ministry) only allowing worship team leaders under 40 on the platform. Young adults aren’t fooled by a faux move towards reaching them by putting one or two young people on stage with everyone else over a certain age. Churches that want to connect with young adults are willing to pay the price and make strategic moves about who and what they validate from a public and platform level.

In asking the fourth question, we are moving more to a sensitive issue (as if the others weren’t.) This is asking if your sermons, publicity, and teaching keep the young adult perspective in frame. Honestly, too many established churches and pastors are convinced that they can communicate the exact same sermon to senior adults as to twenty-somethings. One of the challenges too many of us seminary trained pastors have is that our model for preaching utilizes a deductive approach. However, young adults are used to inductive communication (and possibly even abductive…and no I don’t mean kidnapping them during the sermon.) One time I remember talking to a pastor of a significant church who believed all he needed to do to preach to twentysomethings was take off his suit coat and tie and untuck his shirt while still delivering the exact same content that the previous services had heard. Then he got discouraged when young adults weren’t staying even though they had a great worship environment. How we communicate to young adults is just as important as who have up on the platform.

The final question is one that will need to be looked at more exhaustively, but before we do that here’s a concise point. If you look in your

This is for our next door zip code, notice how the young adult number is significantly lower.

This is for our next door zip code, notice how the young adult number is significantly lower.

surrounding community (doing a demographic study) what is the age distribution look like and where are the concentrations. (You can do this for free through the Census or reports. More detailed analysis might require higher level experts, but it is often worth it.) I’ve provided an age distribution chart for the immediate three zip codes around Sugar Creek Baptist Church, where I serve. If you’re seeing a higher distribution of adults 45 and above then you’re not in a young community. If there are a lot of young adults below 25 you’re probably near a college. You’re goal here is to understand who is around your church (usually within 15 minutes driving time…note this isn’t miles.)

These kinds of questions begin confronting the brutal facts of who a church is and how they are, or aren’t reaching, young adults. Young adults reach young adults. Now if you only have a small number that doesn’t mean you’re never going to reach more. It also doesn’t mean that going out and hiring a young adult pastor is going to be the best step for you. Tying up $85,000 in a salary and benefits package isn’t always the best stewardship if adjustments to your overall strategy might just need adjusting.

Young adults are kind of the holy grail for a lot of churches. Since the 1980s they have been and many churches today are wondering how they can best reach them. There are plenty of good reasons to reach young adults and keep connected in our churches. I believe that most churches asking these questions deeply desire to reach young adults for the good reasons and not for hubris.

In our next post on this topic, we’ll look at several key factors in building a young church from the internal ministry side.


Measuring Up

One of the challenges of living in an increasingly post-Christian culture that is fragmented and dispersed as we are, is that how we engage with church and activities is changing. Even up into the late 1980s, maybe the early 1990s, we could reasonably expect regular, consistent attendance at events and programs. Indeed, the average church built their year around a programatic structure where we could move people from event to event to event to event and expect that this would be a decent marker of how well a church was doing in its ministry. 

With the explosion of fragmented and dispersed people, who are often faithful believers, that is driven by a shift in technology, media, and social involvement this programatic model is suffering a much needed death. The challenge for church leaders is understanding that there are two kinds of measures that go into assessing how well, or not, a church is accomplishing its goals and ministry.

Vertical Measures – are largely how many church leaders track, analyze, and assess their ministries. This approach asks the question: how many people showed up to (insert activity.) It is fundamentally a church of last century approach to ministry assessment. It has, as an underlying assumption, that church folk are moved and motivated to personal growth by attending events and regular involvement in ministry. Vertical measures track numbers and draw conclusions based on those numbers. (How many of us have a designated counter on Sunday morning.) They are also how most senior leaders have been taught, in both seminary and vocational life, how to assess programs and ministries.

Horizontal Measures – seek to track how many people are moving along in their journey of spiritual maturity. This approach asks the question: how many people are being changed/transformed in their spiritual lives? In utilizing this approach, church leaders attempt to understand how people are drawn from being passive observers (imagine the people in the stands of a baseball game) and grown into active contributors (the players on the field.) This is a difficult assessment to get our arms around, particularly since our measure tools are designed to track this growth. When leaders move to utilizing this measure as a primary tool for assessing ministry performance the metrics change and conversations are shaped differently.

Horizontal Measures

For churches that are seeking to grow their ministries (not necessarily numerical growth) the horizontal measures, appropriately tracked, might lead to increased vertical measures. Here the focus is on making disciples, making maturing Christians. With the fragmented and dispersed people who fill our pews and chairs from week to week, their weekly/regular attendance isn’t a metric of their spiritual maturity. Frankly, many spiritually mature church goers know where and how to get resources for their own growth that are unconnected with the specific church where they serve.

How church and ministry leaders develop tools and metric to measure horizontal growth becomes the key matter. Perhaps some questions lead will bring about some focus: how many more of our people are interested in missions work (local, international)? how are we doing starting a new ministry to an external need? where do we turn for new group leaders? how are doing filling vital volunteer positions? how are our people doing in moving from an inward focus to an outward service? how are we doing moving people from sitting and soaking to being involved in serving and giving?

Horizontal measures help develop people and draw them along a spectrum of spiritual maturity. Of course we can still use vertical measures, but to exclusively rely on them misunderstands appropriate ministry goals. A good balance between the two measures will bring about a healthier ministry culture and more informed leaders as we consider our next opportunities for expanded ministry.

 So what do you think? What are some ideal measures of horizontal growth?