Sat. Jun 12th, 2021

By Todd Rhoades

Finding and hiring church staff has always been a challenge for most churches, and it’s a situation in which they frequently find themselves. Recently, I asked a group of pastors how they thought the area of staffing in churches has changed over recent years. What are the new things churches must be aware of when hiring staff? Are these trends making it easier or more difficult to find candidates who are the right fit?

TREND #1: More Candidates – But of Widely Varying Quality

Most of the pastors told me that there’s no problem finding candidates for a position. The problem is finding qualified candidates who meet the requisites for the job and are a good fit for your church.

Part of this problem is that most job descriptions are constantly changing, and new, more specialized skills are needed now more than ever. According to Bill Fix, senior pastor of Taylor Free Methodist Church (Taylor, Michigan), “It has become extremely important to understand people; and people have become more complex in technology, in education, in disorders and addictions, in relationships, and in families.” There seemed to be a consensus that many candidates are professionally qualified for tasks. However, many candidates are lacking in the ability to work well with others. Others are not experienced in handling the complexity and pressure of ministry, both in attitude and spirit.

Ray Brock, pastor of Center Pointe Community Church, Goshen, Ohio, stated what many other pastors reported: “What we have discovered is that biblical knowledge and willingness does not equal a good staff member. It seems that many candidates are not aware of the definition of commitment. Many candidates have the skills but they lack in character, good decision-making skills, and the pursuit of holiness.”

TREND #2: Seminary Degree Optional

It seems in many churches and denominations, there tends to be less of an emphasis on seminary education than in the past, especially for associate positions. David Saathoff of Bendera Road Community Church in San Antonio, Texas, said he’s “impressed with many of our young hires who are humble, God-honoring employees. Most of them have earned a college degree but have no formal seminary training. In one sense, they are less qualified, but better hires.”

TREND #3: Increased Compensation

While this is not true across the board, it has been suggested that certain staff members are getting increasing compensation packages. More than one pastor commented that if you want to hire a very qualified candidate for a position, you’ll need to be willing to pay the price. Highly successful candidates from other churches already have good compensation packages. Hiring them may require “sweetening the pot” even more.

TREND #4: More Due Diligence Is Required

With the growing number of scandals and failures of pastors and other church staff, most churches have stepped up their efforts to screen potential employees during the selection process.

Many churches have “gotten more intentional about doing it right,” according to Bill Hendricks, president of The Giftedness Center, an organization that helps churches and organizations find qualified candidates. “Five years ago it was ‘Let’s just pray and see who the Lord brings us.’ Now it’s more the case, ‘Let’s pray, but let’s also be smart about how we go about hiring for this position by qualifying the candidates better.'”

One way of qualifying candidates is by doing a mandatory criminal background check on all candidates. Another is by looking more closely at the interpersonal qualities each candidate exhibits while interviewing. Pastor Dave Engbrecht of Napanee Missionary Church (Nappanee, Indiana) said, “We look hard at the ‘soft’ side – how they act during social parts of the visit. We look closely at their relationship to their spouses and watch that interaction as well as the interaction with their children. We want to see how they operate outside of ministry; for example, on the golf course, while go-karting, etc.”

TREND #5: More Hiring from the Inside

Some churches, such as Granger Community Church in Granger, Indiana, hire almost exclusively from within their own congregations. In fact, according to Tony Morgan, who serves on Granger’s executive team, out of 70 hires, he could recall only three who were from outside the Granger congregation.

Becca Wilds, senior director of human resources for Grace Community Church (Noblesville, Indiana) reported that in the past they’ve hired extensively from within but that it’s becoming increasingly hard to do so. She shares two concerns: “Be prepared that they may want to do ministry as vocation for a season – and be ready to part amicably in two to five years. Some will be called for longer, but it is often a short-term commitment. Second, take time to prepare the candidate for what we call the ‘underbelly.’ Some congregants view the church and the pastors through rose-colored glasses and think that the behind the scenes will be just as ‘pristine’ and pleasant as the weekend worship service. We work hard to make sure they’re prepared for us all to fall right off our pedestals Monday through Friday!”

TREND #6: The Internet Changes Everything

Most every church responded that the Internet has been one of the biggest changes in the way churches search for staff members. Sites such as ChurchStaffing.com, Pastorfinder.com, and ChurchJobs.net have made finding new staff members easier and harder at the same time. With the increasing popularity of these job boards, the number of resumes available for immediate download is astounding and somewhat intimidating. It’s now possible to post your job opening and have 50 responses by the end of the day. The Internet allows for instant communication of openings, quick transfer of resumes and job descriptions, and really speeds the process along. It has also virtually made every church job search a national one because candidates can now apply from all over the country for any position.

Many of these changes are welcome, but they come at a price. “It is easier than ever to let others know about your position,” says Ron Hand, pastor of Rincon Baptist Temple (Rincon, Georgia), “but with an abundance of responses, it is harder to make decisions.”

Other Trends Worth Mentioning

Pastors brought up these additional trends during our conversations. Space will allow a quick mention for each:

Managed Searches. More and more churches are experimenting with using managed search agencies (such as MinisterSearch.com) that handle the administration and search process for each hire.

Program vs. Relational Orientation. Many see their church moving from a program-orientation to a relational-orientation. As mentioned earlier, more emphasis is now being placed on relational ministry roles. This requires a willingness to adapt to the changing job descriptions, especially for older, well-seasoned staff members who were schooled more toward program-oriented ministry.

More Halftimers. Some are seeing an increase in “second-half” people from the corporate, business, and military worlds transitioning into careers in churches. These are people who have been successful in the business or secular world and are now interested in turning their efforts into work that has more eternal benefits.

Ministry or Calling? More than one pastor reported that there’s a trend among staff members to look at church ministry as a profession rather than as a calling.

High-Capacity Unpaid Staff. Some churches, especially those who are hiring internally, find that they’re relying more on high-capacity volunteers to do the grunt work of ministry. It’s usually out of these situations that internal employees are eventually hired.

The church is always changing, and staffing the church is no exception. These are the biggest areas of change over the past five years. Being aware of these changes and how they’ll affect your church is the first step in making your next church hire a positive experience.

Article “The Changing Face of Church Staffing” excerpted from “REV!”. Article written by Todd Rhoades.

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.”

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