If you hire the wrong person for your church staff, you could ruin your church. That’s why hiring decisions can be the most agonizing, time-consuming, and difficult that a pastor faces. How, apart from a huge cosmic finger singling out the right person, can the pastor make the ideal choice?
These seven tips will help you make a more cautious and deliberate choice when you are making that key hire decision for your ministry, and ensuring that you hire someone with integrity, honesty, and reliability.
Just like every decision in church ministry, this one should be bathed in prayer. God has the foremost position in this decision, and you should seek him at every step of the way. Following a set of careful steps is no guarantee against a dud candidate. In this monumental decision, you should be always in prayer, walking in obedience, and trusting God with your whole heart.
How to Hire Church Staff with Integrity, Honesty and Reliability
1. Hire from within.
The best way to make sure that you really know someone is to have spent years watching them, observing them, shepherding them, or leading with them. People that you know already should be a natural choice — the people in your congregation. They could include one of the following:
A junior member of your pastoral staff. This individual is already on staff. You could change his or her position, allowing them to fill the vacancy. This is perfect, because they are already “trained” in the context of your specific ministry, and don’t require the enormous time, cost, and difficulty involved with hiring from the outside.
A seminary student or intern. If your church has the privilege of being the home church of seminary or pastoral students, you’ve got a great pool of select individuals. These people should be considered for open positions. Hiring someone who has grown up in the church has its own set of challenges and obstacles, but it could be the solution.
A volunteer. Some of your most faithful, honest, and reliable people are those who have been serving without pay — your volunteers. If you notice a volunteer who could be right for the position, encourage that person to pray and consider whether they should make the transition to becoming a church staff member.
The obvious advantage to hiring from within is that you already know the people. You know if they are trustworthy, faithful, and hard-working. You know their strengths and weaknesses, and can work well with them in the trenches of church leadership.
2. Choose from trusted sources.
When it’s time to widen the net, search in places you can trust. Many pastors and church leaders choose to hire graduates from the seminary or institution from which they graduated. In this way, the pastor knows “the product” to some extent, and will have a point of familiarity with the candidate’s beliefs and teaching. The obvious benefit is that you’ll likely find someone on the same theological page and similar training. As you go into your hiring process, create a list of the best five or ten theological schools or seminaries that you can think of — places which produce well-trained, servant-hearted, ministry-minded graduates. Call up the school, and find out how you can list your open position for consideration.
3. Dispense with the questionnaires. Get to really know the candidate.
It’s popular in the church hiring process to give the candidate a questionnaire to fill out as he prepares to interview with the church. These questionnaires run the interrogation gamut from mundane to minutiae. How helpful, really, are these questionnaires? Do they truly assess an individual’s ability to teach, skill in counselling, or capability with proclaiming the word? Often, such questionnaires are a total waste of time for the candidate, and not much help to the hiring team. A thirty-minute phone call with a candidate is fifty times as profitable as a ten-page questionnaire asking questions like, “How many souls have you saved in the past month?” or “How many hours of television do you watch daily?” or “What are you currently learning in your daily devotions?” Substitute a phone call or two for the questionnaire. You can accomplish more, get better answers, and gain more valuable insight into the viability of the candidate.
4. Thoroughly vet the candidate.
Although questionnaires are more of a hassle than a help, there does come a time when you should thoroughly know the person you’re considering. Once you’ve advanced to a late stage in the hiring process, it’s time to really get to know the person you’re considering. Here are a few tips for thoroughly vetting the candidate.
Have the candidate preach on at least two occasions. If the job for which you’re hiring involves preaching, it’s critical that you see them in action.
Give the candidate the opportunity to teach a class. Again, this is crucial if you’re hiring a position that requires teaching.
Allow the candidate to stay in a church member’s home. It’s not necessary to have the candidate stay in the pastor’s home, but it’s a great idea to have them stay with another trusted church member. This close setting gives the opportunity for your church to exercise hospitality, while getting to know a potential staff member.
Take the candidate and his family out to eat. Mealtime provides a great opportunity for conversation and fellowship. Use these mealtime opportunities to get to know each other.
Enjoy some recreation with the candidate. You want to see the candidate in as many situations as possible. A game of golf, a hike, a sporting event, a boat ride, a local attraction — these are prime opportunities to enjoy recreation with a potential hire, and to assess the candidate in a casual setting.
As you engage in this process, you’ll gain a far better good sense of the candidates reliability, integrity, and honesty. You’ll see him in action, and be able to make a far better decision.
5. Take as much time as you need.
If you’re in a rush to hire someone, you’re going to make a mistake like hiring the first guy that interviews with skill, preaches a humdinger, or catches your fancy. Hasty hiring is a sure way to let someone less-than-ideal into your church. Slow down, because it’s better to be without a key position than to have a totally unqualified person in such a position.
6. Hear them out.
Candidacy is a two-way street. You have a lot to tell the candidate about the position, and the candidate has a lot to tell you about himself. Use this opportunity to its fullest advantage by being a good listener. Ask good questions, and let the candidate talk. Just hear them out.
On the flip side, it is necessary for you to give the candidate all the information he needs to make a decision, too. Too often, we think of hiring as a one-sided process — we’re trying to figure out if the candidate is right for our church. The real situation is a bit more nuanced. The candidate is trying to figure out if the church is right for him! If you bore down on the candidate in a one-sided way, he will not be able to make the most accurate decision by getting the information that he needs. Give him time to ask questions, get answers, and think.
7. Try to persuade them not to take the position.
Ron Edmonson, blogger at ChurchLeaders.com writes, “I actually spend time in what has often appeared to be talking them out of the position. I want them to know the benefits and the negatives of the organization. If they survive this step, I’m usually ready to hire.” Your goal is not always to sell the candidate on the awesome opportunity, but to convince them not to make this if it’s not right. Candidates can sometimes be blinded by an appealing opportunity. They need a dose of realism splashed on their visions of grandeur. Take some time to discuss not just the pros, but the cons of the situation.
When the hiring process is completed, your church will change under the leadership of a new individual. God willing, that church will be for the better. It may take some time, as the candidate adjusts to the new role. As you’ve made this decision with prayer and caution, you will have hired someone who is ideal for the role.