7 tips for hiring the right person for the church staff

June 16th, 2015

We must make good staff hires in the church.

That’s seems like common sense to me, but there’s a definite reason.

In most churches it is often difficult to remove someone once they are added. (That’s somewhat of a pet peeve of mine after spending many of my years in business, but that’s another blog post.) Regardless of the industry, however, adding to a team is a critical decision — perhaps one of the most important a leader makes. New team members change the dynamics of a team. That change will either be positive or negative.

In a day where budgets are thinner and the mission remains critical, we must hire the best people we can find.

Here are seven tips I’ve learned by experience for hiring:

Biblical qualities – In a church position, especially a called position, this is first and foremost. There are standard passages we use for positions such as pastor. I wonder, however, if there aren’t good biblical standards for hiring even in every position, even in the secular world. And not just using the couple of passages we tend to use. I realize this is open for critique, but it seems to me the “fruit of the spirit” is a good measure of character for anyone I’d place on my team, in the church or in business. Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Would you hire someone with those qualities?

Know them – I have told my boys that in their generation, they will most likely never have a job where they didn’t know someone connected to the organization. The more you can know the person the more likely you are to make a wise decision. This is one reason we often hire from within our church whenever possible. If it’s not possible to know the individual personally, try to know people who know the person. I’ve found there is usually someone connected to the person on our team, in our church or in my social network. LinkedIn is a good resource for this. (If there’s no way to know the person, that doesn’t eliminate them, but it does generate a slower decision-making process for me.)

Investigate them – I don’t insist on background checks on everyone. I understand some do and I’m okay with that, but I do believe in asking questions of those who know the person, whether or not they were placed on their list of references. Knowing them personally helps eliminate some doubt, but if there is any unanswered questions in your mind, it is better to be awkward in the beginning than surprised in the end. (I’d be curious in the comments if your organization does background checks and if so, what kind.)

Meet the spouse – I have always held a simple policy in business and ministry, especially for any position with authority. I won’t hire someone if I wouldn’t also hire his or her spouse. Period. Most likely, whether you know it or not, you are hiring both anyway. Both spouses will certainly impact the organization either directly or indirectly. Plus, the spouse always asks better questions.

Chemistry AND Culture – The ability to get along with others (especially the team) often trumps a pedigreed potential employee. We can make a team work with people who work well together and are sold out for the vision of the organization.

Culture is equally important. If the person doesn’t like or can’t support the church where it is today (even if the desire is to take the church elsewhere) they will likely make things difficult for the church and you. They may be a great person and you may like them a lot, but they need to be able to love the church (and its people) even in its current state, even if they aren’t satisfied with where the church is today.

Talk them out of it – I get push back on this principle when I share it, but I’m really not trying to be a bad guy here. I want to make sure someone knows all the negatives of me and our church before they agree to join our team. So before a person accepts a position, I tell them everything I can think of why they perhaps shouldn’t accept the job. I did this in business and I have repeated it in the church world. If it makes you feel better, to date I’ve never had anyone decide not to join us. This tactic has prompted some good, honest conversations. I feel people have come better prepared for what they will face once they join our team. It also exposes some issues or concerns we likely would have had to deal with down the road. It is easier on the front end.

Take risk – After I’ve done my homework and I’ve prayed for clarity along the way, I hire the person my heart tells me to hire. Many times it is a gut instinct. I often bring Cheryl along on interviews and I heavily rely on her recommendation. She’s got a much better feel for people than I have sometimes. In business, and in church, I’ve taken some huge risks on people. I always tell leaders if your gut is grounded with Jesus, you can trust your gut. Overall, we’ve created great teams and I’ve even found a few superstars along the way.

What tips do you have for hiring the right person?


Ron Edmondson blogs at RonEdmondson.com.

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