Church Staffing Advice: Don’t Mess With People’s Lives


It’s probably happened to you—you have a position open on your church staff, and you know someone who attends your church who might be a perfect fit for that position.

Here is my recommendation: Don’t talk to them. Not yet.

I’ve seen it happen over and over—you approach a guy in your church about a position that you have open. And suddenly his life stops cold. You can almost hear the brakes screeching. He can no longer think straight. He may initially not even be very interested, but the fact that he’s been asked by his pastor to think about joining the staff of the church is a big deal. For him, it’s not just a career decision. It is a spiritual event.

Or perhaps it’s a woman you’ve approached, and now she can’t sleep at night because she’s picturing what it would be like to work at her church, with her pastors. She begins dreaming about the role and strategizing how she’d approach it.

What happens next can be incredibly devastating to the individual. Just a few days ago, they weren’t even thinking about a church position—now they can’t think about anything else. But you suddenly decide not to fill that position, at least not right now. Or you decide the man or woman you talked to isn’t qualified. Or you can’t find the money in the budget. So you tell him, “So sorry, it’s not going to work out.”

You have just messed with his or her life. He used to love his church—now he’s frustrated. She enjoyed coming to the services, but now she sits there like an open wound, because her hopes were raised and then dashed. Or you hired someone else and now she feels inadequate. Or he can’t stop wondering which pastor vetoed the decision to hire him.

There is nothing wrong with hiring people from your congregation (at Granger where I served as the Executive Pastor, 123 of our 129 staff members had been hired from within the congregation). I’m a big fan of internal hires.

However, I would caution you to do 4 things before you approach an individual about a position on your staff:

1. Stalk them thoroughly.

Even if you’ve known them for twenty years, go a level deeper and find out everything you can about them (legally, of course) to “vet” them before you talk to them.

2. Nail down the details.

Make sure the position is approved and funded before you talk to them. Don’t get their hopes up and then say, “Oh, we found out there isn’t any money in the budget for this role.”

3. Discuss with the leadership.

Talk about the potential candidate with all your decision makers first. You want to know about any landmines to avoid before you approach the individual.

4. Commit to a quick process.

If you decide it is time to talk to them, commit to make it a quick process. Don’t do it so quickly that you don’t ask the right questions, but don’t leave them “hanging” for months.

Another option is to consider getting some help with hiring your church staff. In my role at Vanderbloemen Search Group, we often look at internal and external candidates when partnering with a church to fill a position. In other words, we consider people within your congregation right along side people from outside the church who might have more experience but who don’t know your culture as well.  If you ultimately decide not to hire the person from your congregation, the blow is sometimes softened for them since there was objective expertise and a professional process. We also provide help in communicating to those who did not get the role, so it’s not their pastor who “rejected” them.

Whichever way you decide to fill your next open church staff position, remember that changing jobs is a sacred moment for most people. Walk lightly, pray often, and treat people with love and respect.

What other church staffing advice do you have for internal hiring?

If you liked this, then you’ll also like 3 Costly Consequences Of Hiring Too Slowly.