By M.G. Rickard
A question often asked ministers of large, multiple-staff churches is, “What is the best order of adding staff?” Others want to know if a Christian education minister should precede a youth minister, or if a children’s worker is better for a church than a music minister, and what about an administrator?
Coming from a membership of 83 all the way to 6500 members at present, we have had lots of experience adding staff. A businessman was asked how he became successful. He said, “Good
decisions. ” The questioned persisted, “But how did you learn to make good decisions!” The crusty, old fellow answered, “Experience. ” One more question followed, “Well, how did you
get the experience!” The answer: “Bad decisions.”
Actually, we have fared remarkably well in our choices, with many of our staff staying with us for ten years or more and few leaving in less than four years. We have never developed a
chart or priority list of the ideal order of staff growth.
I have analyzed this area of our ministry and in other large churches, and have decided that ministerial staff are added for four reasons.
Reason one: Your church has grown so that lay people no longer have the time and possibly the ability to effectively lead a particular department. Someone is needed who is freed from secular employment to work in the ministry full time. Often the very man or woman who has been so effective in lay leadership ought to be that new staff person. Several times we have seen ministries thrive so well under key lay leadership that the best solution is to hire that person. “On the job training” is the term industry uses. Why not in the churches!
Bible college is the additional way, but a family man with established financial obligations often finds it impossible to go off for the traditional education. If he is good at his Christian work and leadership, why not free him up to do more of it? Disciple him or her in the Word as time goes on. Of course the usual method is to look for an educated, trained expert, and the Bible colleges and seminaries are doing a great work in producing potential leaders. I have discovered no easy method for finding staff. You write letters to ministers, colleges, and individuals who might know someone and pray the Lord of the harvest to send you a laborer.
Reason two: You want to begin a ministry not now being done very well. You or other leaders have a vision of what it could be but isn’t. You dream of victories where few are being won. You know the key is leadership. If you know the key is leadership. If you can find the leader and turn that person loose to fulfill the dream wonderful things can happen. It is essential that the person called have the same dream and vision. Otherwise, all you have is a “hireling” who worries more about days off, benefits, and vacations than the work in the vineyard.
We had so few junior highness that I was embarrassed when folks asked. I asked our elders to consider seeking out a person who had a burden for that intimidating age. If we could find such a person, we could pay a salary and ask him or her to go reach junior high kids. Carl Palmer was a single young man about to be married and he had a real love and burden for this age. In addition, he was about to graduate from a nearby Bible college. He was our man . . . and God’s. At first he could take most of our group with him on his motorcycle. It soon proved too small so he bought a van. Within a few months we needed buses.
junior high kids were everywhere. They came mid-week for Bible study, dozens of them. Our vision had become reality, and all it took was to find a man with a burden, pay him enough to live on,
and then raise it so he could get married and continue on.
Reason three: You believe God is leading you to take an unusual step. The “leading of the Lord” is always related to a burden on the heart of a believer. Some action needs to be taken
to meet a particular need. Of the possibilities available, you finally select one, feeling in your heart that the step is the best one.
A verse I have noted in the back of my Bible to be used when “hearing” the voice of God is this one: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, This is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21 NIV).
If you have heard the voice of God and you take steps to follow the direction you have received, the promise of scripture is that some definite confirmation will come. And the confirmation will not be some ambiguous or subjective experience. It will be the sure hand of the Lord doing what no human could contrive.
For years I had dreamed of adding a total sports ministry to our church activities. Others shared the vision. My family’s church in Santa Cruz had offered summer softball and winter volleyball. Someone with vision had led that church to build a recreation hall. These activities had helped to keep me in the church through the vital years of my teens. I know that other boys and girls, as well as sports-minded adults, could be reached for Christ through athletics or kept in the church when they might otherwise slip away.
We had thirteen acres and fine church and classroom facilities, but some of us looked longingly across our back fence at the pasture hillside next door. It could provide additional parking, a site for a future gymnasium, and a full soccer field and softball diamond. But we didn’t own it” Our budget was strained to the limit as we had just relocated and remodeled. Our struggle for a use permit had been so fierce and expensive that the thought of applying for another permit was unwelcomed.
Still, we reasoned, if we don’t own it, we will never be able to use the land as we desire. Maybe we could tie it up in some way, such as a lease with an option to buy or first right to purchase if it should one day be for sale. At least we ought to meet the owner and talk about our vision for the future.
Thus it was on March 3, 1975, that Tom Moore, our business manager, and I drove to Mr. Charles Kring’s office in his shopping center a few miles away to talk about the property. It was our intention to explore the possibilities. Suddenly I felt “the leading of the Lord” to say something I hadn’t planned to say. I blurted out, surprising all three of us with what I said, “Mr. Kring, you have more money than you will ever spend and more property than you will ever use. Why don’t you give us some of your land that is adjacent to our church property? We need it for sports, youth work, and parking.”
No one broke the silence. Mr. Kring pulled out file drawers, removed folders, maps, and other papers, spreading them out on his desk. He moved to the large map on his office wall and contemplated it for quite some time, still not saying anything. My hands perspired. Tom was very silent. Was it the “leading of the Lord” or a foolish request! Mr. Kring wasn’t a member of our church, although we knew him to be favorable to us while we fought the battle of the use permit. At least he hadn’t opposed us in the public hearings, and one day his wife had come in for a tour of our buildings and to ask some questions. These fine people love our country and believe in things that are right and pure and good.
When he sat down again, he looked right at me and asked a very direct question, “How much land!” My answer was even shorter, “Ten acres.” I hadn’t intended to ask him for a gift of
land in the first place, so my answer to his question was without any forethought, although Tom and I had obviously gone to him to talk about “some land. ”
Mr. Kring, dignified gentleman that he is, looked at my face for a few moments, then stood up. We stood as well. “My wife is in Europe at the moment,” he said. “I will mention your proposal to her when she returns. Thank you for stopping by. ” He smiled as he firmly shook our hands and walked us to the door.
“Tom,” I said when back in his car, “I’m sorry. I hope he wasn’t offended. I really had no intention of doing that.” As we drove away, Tom said, as I recall, “Might as well ask. Who knows? Maybe it was the `leading of the Lord.’ Time will tell.”
Well, time passed, weeks and months of time. One day a man came in and introduced himself as Mr. Kring’s real estate representative. He had a proposition, the first of many we were to hear. We would buy eleven acres and Mr. Kring would give us four. We would receive a gift of some land in another town which we would sell and then buy the land we wanted. The months passed and nothing definite was ever settled on. Two years passed. The church was growing rapidly, but it looked as if the property item was too complicated ever to materialize.
Then one day in August, 1977, I received a letter with the Kring’s address on the envelope. When I opened it, here is what I read:
Dear Reverend Rickard,
I have been made aware of your need of additional land
for the use of your church.
It is my intent to make a gift to you of fifteen acres
of land fronting Hicks Road adjoining your property on the south
as shown on the enclosed plan. I understand you have an engineer
that recently surveyed your boundary and is qualified to prepare
the necessary parcel map . . .
Very truly yours,
Charles U. Kring
A gift of fifteen beautiful acres of land, ten of which were usable! Enough for soccer field, softball diamond, parking, a gym, plus some additional land to develop later! We could see it in our minds, and now it is reality. Four thousand people a year are involved in sporting activities of all kinds. Two full-time ministers of sports and recreation lead our program which includes outreach teams in city leagues, teams to send overseas, and a ministry to prisons through athletic competition. Saturdays now see hundreds of children involved in soccer or softball. Summer evenings resound with the crack of bat against ball and the sounds of teams intent on victory.
Some churches don’t need a sports ministry or a junior high ministry or a ministry to seniors. If God places a burden on the pastor’s heart, God has probably prepared a person to
fulfill that need. All it takes is one year’s salary and then that staff person’s contribution is “free”! If he or she is effective, the people he draws into the church will soon be covering all costs of that ministry by the additional tithes and offerings.
Reason four: A proven, capable leader suddenly becomes available. This is rarely employed, yet it can prove to be the most effective of all. You ask him or her to join your staff, then you figure out what that leader’s job description might be. Industry has long since discovered that some people are gifted leaders by nature and will be a great asset to the company wherever they are placed. When such a person is available, they employ him and then begin to determine how his talents can best benefit the operation.
A person called of God into ministry can specialize in any number of fields with great effectiveness.
At a certain point our elders came to the conviction that we needed help in the area of business management. The responsibility had become too large for the lay people upon whom it fell. Someone was needed to give full-time attention to all financial and business aspects of our church work. The Lord knew our need and had prepared the man to fill it, a man who had the capacity to grow and assume even larger responsibilities. I have mentioned Tom Moore previously. We met at the suggestion of his daughter who was a member of our church. She said, “Dad is ready to take early retirement from Boy Scouts of America where he has been in administration for years. ” I agreed to meet him for lunch at what was once Jeff’s Restaurant in Los Gatos. Before I left for the appointment, I jotted down a few major areas we needed to cover. We had no written job description yet.
I liked Tom immediately. He had once felt a real calling for the ministry but had accepted another worthy calling working with boys. More recently, at age 56, he had expressed a longing
for full-time involvement in the Lord’s work. With his wife’s encouragement, Tom had decided to consider early retirement and to see if any doors were open. Our meeting was by divine
appointment. The areas of our need were the very areas of his experience and expertise.
A pastor can’t take the time to function as church administrator when facilities and employees increase, along with financial complexities. An administrator is needed with real skills in dealing with personnel, budgets, building projects, maintenance, and finances.
I believe that the Lord will send the laborers into the fields at the right moment. Our part is to be sensitive to the moment and to the person sent to us.
I cannot close this chapter without some mention of a problem which prevents many pastors from leading their churches beyond a certain point. This point is reached when they have to turn over major responsibilities to someone else. A growing church will need to have a staff. At first the staff is small and the role of the pastor isn’t much different than before. However, if growth continues, eventually the pastor has to major on preaching and overall administration, letting others do weddings, funerals, conduct meetings, make most hospital calls, and do the counseling.
The difficult hurdle for a pastor to overcome is to allow staff members to become pastors to their areas of the church membership. If jealousy gains a foothold, staff changes will be frequent and unrest common.
The only way one man can be pastor to many hundreds or thousands is by delegating his responsibilities to others. He preaches, counsels, visits, teaches, and he leads, but much of the work with individuals, committees, and classes is in the hands of his staff. They become an extension of his ministry, although they feel as if their areas are their own. Their areas are indeed their own, but all of the areas together make up the whole. No one on the staff sees this viewpoint as clearly as the senior pastor.
A church cannot grow beyond a certain numerical point unless the pastor is able to delegate others to do many things that he would enjoy doing himself.
PRINCIPLES TO PONDER
1. There is no “best” order of adding staff.
2. The Lord leads by inner promptings.
3. The Lord confirms His leadings by the fruit of the action taken.
4. Successful delegation is essential to church growth.
5. “You have not because you ask not. “