Staffing FAQs

By David Lyons

I once heard a pastor say he spent half his time trying to hire staff and the other half trying to fire them. While I know there was some humor to his statement, I’ve realized, after talking with thousands of pastors and ministers, that there’s more truth in his words than any of us would like to admit. Over and over again we hear horror stories around hiring, firing, and compensation. Here are my responses to pastors’ most-asked questions.

How do we go about firing someone on our church staff?

Before I can answer this question, there are several questions I must ask: Why are you firing the person? Did he or she meet the position’s minimum requirements when hired? If not, make sure your next hire does. Has the person been given clear objectives along with training and feedback on those objectives? How long have you known the person wasn’t working out?

Does the person know it’s not working out? What have you done to make it work? All too often churches don’t do those things necessary to help a new staff member succeed, and when church leaders determine there may be a problem, they typically wait too long to take corrective action.

What’s the best way to retain our top staff?

* Pay them well! Construct a fair and competitive compensation plan based on their performance, including bonuses.

* Have clear expectations and effective performance reviews.

* Don’t move the target too often. Church staff regularly tells us that the direction and focus of the church changes too much – sometimes without explanation. Determine what your goals are, stick to them, and make sure the whole team clearly understands the plan.

* Talk to them! I recently started asking each of my employees two questions during our regular meetings: (1) What do you need from me? (2) How is your job going?

* Outline a career path – make sure your staff members know what their options are. Top performers are interested in continued growth.

How much should we pay our staff?

Consider the financial and spiritual cost of losing a key staff member. Some people say that the only way to get a good raise is to change jobs. That’s not good for anyone. If the budget is tight, I recommend cutting other expenses. Often there are items in the budget that are less critical than taking care of your staff. What if they’re at the top of your scale? Who says there has to be a scale? Gone are the days of a pecking order or levels of pay within an organization.

What can we do to reduce our level of turnover?

Often, when one staff member is leaving more will follow. Sometimes you need to look at the senior pastor or lay leadership and consider their impact on staff. Something else to chew on – exit interviews. Consider having the same team involved in the hiring interview involved in an exit interview. Do your best not to repeat any mistakes.

What’s the best way to review the performance of each team member?

Performance reviews don’t have to be a burden; they can actually be a great tool if used properly. Make a list of the key responsibilities for the job. Rank those responsibilities in order of importance, and then rate the staff member’s performance. Before the review, have the person do the same thing – rank the importance of tasks and rate him or herself. This will quickly identify whether the employee understands the priorities of each task, and it will show you those areas in need of coaching. Then put together a development and coaching plan and execute it.

Article “Staffing FAQs” excerpted from “REV!” magazine. Article written by David Lyons.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”