When Terrie and I first came to Lancaster, we could do all of the administrative work in the church. That was back when the work consisted of mowing the parking lot (over the terribly cracked cement), cleaning the building, and preparing the weekly bulletin.
But as the church grew, we needed help. In fact, we got to the place where to not have help was to stunt the continued growth of the church. Over the years, we’ve reached that point many times. And over the years, the Lord has coalesced a team of quality servants of God who are both dedicated and proficient.
I would hasten to add that Lancaster Baptist Church is not a staff-run church. God gives every member of the local church—not just the paid staff—the privilege of assisting in the work of the ministry.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:—Ephesians 4:11–12
The staff simply serve as an extension of the pastor in helping to equip the entire church body for the work of the ministry.
The Apostle Paul had such people who helped him—full-time laborers who served with him as an extension of his ministry. One of these men was Timothy.
But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.—Philippians 2:19–21
As we have come to points of growth in our church when I knew I needed to hire another staff member, I’ve tried to hire according to these seven principles:
1. Hire those with a like spirit
The role of a church staff member is larger than sitting at a desk and getting work done. Those you hire become a representation of you. They are an extension of your ministry. Thus, you want people who have your spirit and accurately reflect your heart in their ministries within the church.
The statement Paul made of Timothy in Philippians 2:19–21 (above) is one of the highest compliments that can be paid to a co-laborer in the Lord. It is also a statement a pastor needs to be able to honestly make concerning his staff. Having a certainty that the person you are considering as a staff member has a like spirit as you is vital.
2. Hire to your weakness
When you need to hire staff, hire to your weaknesses rather than to your strengths. (Of course, this means you must first admit you have a weakness.) Are you naturally unorganized? It’s probably better to hire someone with strength in administration than a fellow dreamer!
I don’t mind telling you that I don’t know one thing about HTML coding. I could learn it. I could take an online course and create practice websites and then code our church website. But that would mean I would spend less time praying for our church family and studying for messages. I’ve chosen instead to hire staff for this area in which I am not proficient.
3. Hire strategically
Be mindful of not only your current needs related to staff, but what those needs will look like five years down the road. Sometimes pastors hire too many people too quickly, or they hire for a role in the church that isn’t fully developed when there are roles needing help.
My general recommendation to church planters is that the first staff needed is usually a secretary and then a music/education combination. As a staff team grows, the staff roles become increasingly specialized, but early on, these are usually the greatest needs.
4. Hire synergistically
I purposefully hire at times from outside our ministry to avoid “inbreeding.” I still train those who join our team in our ministry philosophy, but I appreciate the fresh perspective they bring. And I appreciate the team spirit that has developed among our staff as they recognize and synergize with each other’s strengths and perspectives.
5. Hire servant leaders
Proficiency and productivity is important. But even the most productive staff member who doesn’t have a servant’s heart is a detriment to the entire team. I want people who are productive, but I also want people who are willing to serve in a less than glamorous situation.
6. Hire carefully
It is much easier to hire than to fire. Do not allow your need for help to overpower sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and a careful process of determination. We use a thorough questionnaire when hiring to ensure the right questions are raised.
It is important to me that people who serve on staff in our ministry are spiritual men and women of God who are called to ministry—not merely skilled workers who see their job description as a way to make a living.
7. Hire purposefully
Do not hire out of a simple “I need help!” mindset. When you prepare to bring someone onto a staff team, know why you are hiring them and what you are hiring them for. This is not only a help to you, but it is a help to the staff member as well; it is difficult to perform an undesignated job!
This is not to say that a staff member’s role won’t develop further or that you won’t change someone’s job description as you find his areas of greatest strength. It is to say, though, that the work of the ministry is not haphazard. Even as you serve with purpose, hire those who can likewise invest their help in a specific direction.
Hiring, of course, isn’t the end of the story—it’s just the beginning! Hopefully it is the beginning of a relationship that will result in increased fruitfulness for the pastor, the new staff member, and the church family.
For this to happen, you, as the pastor, must continue to develop your staff. In the next post, I’ll share several thoughts on developing a church staff team in growth and fruitfulness.