6 Deadly Church Staffing Mistakes That Will Kill Your Ministry


One of my former supervisors used to say that the worst hiring mistake you can make is hiring the wrong person. One wrong move, one bad hire, one rush to decision, or one poor judgment can start a cascading landfall of future church staffing challenges. Church leadership changes, loss of vision and direction, declining productivity, further staffing transitions, and waning morale can all become negative consequences of a bad church staffing decision.

Here are six deadly church staffing mistakes we often see churches make and my advice on how you can avoid them. 

1. Ignoring Chemistry: Determine not only the competencies and skills necessary for the role but also consider how valuable the chemistry and culture fit are as well. A trend we see at Vanderbloemen is that teams that have true chemistry and community together not only have synergy but also are more effective in their ministry. They experience less burnout, have more fun, and stay longer in their roles. One helpful tool as you begin to discern the performance requirements for a role is to separate the “must haves” from the “would be nice to have” skills. You can do this by making a simple list on paper or by using note cards that you then categorize.

2. No Timeline: Decide on a timeline and stick to it. It’s important to avoid rushing into a decision regarding a new hire, even when the need may be great. Resist the urge to make a quick decision based on the tyranny of the urgent need.

Eager decision makers often make hasty ones. It is important to be diligent in all aspects of the pastor search process and allow the hiring process itself to help you discover the next person right for your role. Here are a few things we recommend including in your search timeline:

• Phone calls
• Interviews
• Background checks
• Reviewing teaching samples if applicable
• Prayer and fasting
• Meeting with the candidate’s family – elder/deacon/search committee meetings all should have their place in the timeline

While rushing is not a good idea, dragging your feet can be just as harmful. Church staff members often cover for holes in responsibilities while a new role is in the process of getting filled. While this can become an extra burden on some, it’s important to spread out the duties so that one or two people are not getting burned out during the search process. Morale can dwindle if church leadership is not sensitive to communicate their engagement in the pastor search process and encourage those putting in extra hours in the interim.

3. Basing a Hire on a Single Point of View: Involve as many people in the process as you can and that make sense. Staff members that have a vested interest in the role may include those working closely in relationship with the new person, those reporting to the new hire, and any key volunteers who will interact with the role. 

4. Judging a Book by its Cover: And by that I mean “a candidate by their resume.” Most job seekers are not professional resume writers and are prone to leave off vital information regarding their skills and experience. Get on the phone and talk to numerous applicants who have potential before you write off someone based on a piece of paper alone.

5. Hiring Based on Gut Reaction: It is important to check how you are feeling when you interact with potential candidates, but hiring someone based solely on a good feeling and not backing it up with their experience, solid references, and a clean background check is swimming in dangerous waters.

6. Only Hiring Stars: In 2006, during the Willow Creek Global Leadership SummitBill Hybels interviewed Ashish Nanda from Harvard Law School about this very issue. He contrasted the challenges of developing leaders from within versus the risks of hiring stars from outside the organization. He warned about the difficulty that some high potential performers have achieving the same level of performance in a different culture. You can learn more here.