Hiring staff is a daunting task no matter which church job needs to be filled. However, when you’re hiring for leadership positions (senior pastor, associate pastor, youth pastor, worship pastors, children’s pastor, etc.) it can be even more difficult. There are many dynamics that go into picking the right person for the job. That is especially true if the church jobs for which you're hiring are pastor jobs that require strong leadership skills. There are, however, things you can do to make it much less taxing on your church.
Nothing can bring division in your church more quickly than choosing the wrong person for pastor jobs. Yes, all church positions are important, but those high-profile positions tend to cause more strife when the wrong candidate is chosen.
The wrong decision in these cases can truly be tragic for a church. That may sound a bit dramatic, but it's true. Churches are houses of worship, and therefore people hold it and the positions inside of it to be sacred. But by following a few simple strategies you can have increased confidence that you will hire the right person for your important church jobs.
Here are ten strategies your church can use in the hiring process:
- Don’t rush.
- Search within the church.
- Create a position profile.
- Post church jobs on the best web sites.
- Conduct a thorough interview process.
- Offer the job.
- Monitor those hired on a trial basis.
- Ask for feedback.
- Help the new staff member to succeed.
- Don’t Rush
One of the most important things you can do is take your time. Most churches have a system in place where an associate pastor or someone else in higher leadership can fill in while the search is being conducted. In his article How to Hire Church Staff with Integrity, Honesty, and Liability, Daniel Threlfall says, “it’s better to be without a key position than to have a totally unqualified person in such a position.”
As Christians, we can be so determined to get the church job filled that we may forget to spend enough time asking God for guidance. We need to remind ourselves that prayer is the most critical ingredient in the entire process. Devoting ourselves to prayer is what Jesus modeled for us, and what the church leadership needs to model for the congregation. It’s very important to make sure the body of the church is included as much as possible in this process, as well, and this is the best way to start that process with them.
- Create a Position Profile
A key strategy is to create a position profile. Look at everything the job entails and determine what skills, experience, and qualities the person needs to have to be successful. Make a list. Many ministry jobs online fail to do this. Jim Baker gives a great example of this in his article Ten Steps You Must Follow in Hiring Church Staff. He says this is “arguably the most critical, yet most frequently neglected step.” This can include the following areas:
Transferable and Personal Skills
Education and Training
The position profile should be coupled with a job description of the church job, to give the candidates a full picture of what it is you’re looking for so they can assess whether their skills match up before they apply. Putting thought into these two things, in the beginning, will save you a lot of work later.
- Search Within the Church
It may sound too easy, but sometimes the answer to your prayers is sitting in your congregation. Again, it could be easy to rush and pick someone from your church because you know them, their personalities and how they work with the people. However, you could be missing a big opportunity to rejuvenate your church by focusing your search on those from the outside; so again, don’t rush. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you. Consider the possibility that the right person may be someone you already know.
- Post church jobs at ChurchJobsOnline.com and the ChristianCareerCenter.com
A good strategy to use—even if you are considering an individual inside of the church—is to post your church jobs on Internet job boards that are focused on church staffing. Take the position profile and job description and craft a job posting that you can publish. Be sure to describe what you’re looking for in the right candidate. If your church has a special area of focus describe this in the posting. This will help candidates to know if the church job is a good fit for them. The more specific you are, the better your chances are of finding the right person for your church jobs.
As a division of ChristianCareerCenter.com, ChurchJobsOnline.com provides a simple and effective way for your church to find quality candidates. It receives thousands of visitors each month with traffic coming from some of the largest Christian sites including Crosswalk.com, CBN.com and many others. Your featured job postings will also be included in the newsletter sent to over 36,000 subscribers.
If you are in charge of church staffing, you can post your church job openings and search thousands of resumes at both the ChristianCareerCenter.com and ChurchJobsOnline.com. Posting job openings on these sites can help you fill positions with qualified candidates fast.
- Conduct a thorough interview process.
One model for the interviewing process is to break it down into three separate interviews. One interview may be with the church board and leadership to get a feel for the person. During this interview, if you desire to have a trial basis for the job, be sure to communicate this to the candidate. Next, if you are in agreement, you can discuss the next step of inviting a pastor candidate to your church where they can preach a sermon if that is part of the job or plan an event if the job is for a youth pastor or children’s pastor. Observing candidates as they interact with the congregation can give you a good idea of how well they will fit.
For the last interview, you can invite the applicant to come to a less formal event like a meal or a get together at a staff member’s house. This provides you with an opportunity to see how they function in a more casual environment.
- Offer the Job
Now that you’ve interviewed the candidates thoroughly, it’s time to make your choice. As discussed earlier, prayer is important in the decision-making process. When you are confident in your choice and the leadership and congregation agree, you should offer the candidate the position with a formal letter. If there will be a trial, or probationary, period, make sure that you state how long it will be. The letter should also include all pertinent information about the position, such as salary and benefits. Once they sign and accept, you are ready to begin the new journey of helping them integrate into your church.
- Evaluate those hired on a trial basis.
If you have hired someone on a trial basis, or with a probationary period, make sure to provide good training so they can induct well into the position and the church. You want to see them working at full capacity in their position so you can get a feel for how they will do. If after that period you feel they are not the right candidate, you can provide them with feedback when you let them go, and continue with your next choice. The trial period also allows the candidate to have the opportunity to see if they feel the position is the right fit for them.
- Ask for Feedback
During the initial weeks of a new hire’s employment, you should get feedback from all the board members and those in leadership as well as members of the congregation. Allow them to be completely open to their feelings and thoughts. And remember, you can never satisfy everyone. Take the comments and feedback given along with your own observations and information you have and pray again about the decision. If needed, provide constructive feedback and training, if needed, to the new hire to help them be successful.
- Do everything you can to help the new staff member to succeed.
Prior to their first day, develop a plan to orient them to the church, its people and the job. Think through what they need to know to do their job well at your church (where supplies are kept, who the key people are to assist them in their role, upcoming church events, etc.). If the position is an entry-level job, or if you are hiring someone to fill a higher role than they have previously held, also create a plan to train and mentor them until they become comfortable in the position.
Also, have a plan for how you will introduce the individual to any staff they have not met previously and to the church body. Express enthusiasm at their arrival, and make them feel welcomed. In addition, make sure you cover the practical parts of their new job such as orienting them to the building, getting them the keys, showing them where to park, etc. Answer any questions they have. Practice hospitality with your new hire!
- Document your steps and develop your own employment manual.
Use these strategies and what has been successful at your church in the past to develop a documented process that works for your church. Following the same steps with each candidate will help ensure a fair hiring process, and increase the likelihood of making the best choice for the new addition to your church staff. You will learn more each time you go through the process which can be added to the document. The result will be a valuable tool that you—and those who follow you—can use at your church to find just the right church staff.