Hiring Church Members to Become Staff Members

One of the most important decisions a ministry leader will make concerns staff selection and staff development. Hiring someone who possesses an excellent Christian character, has a healthy family life, exhibits the core competencies for the position, and understands the culture and mission of the church are essential in the hiring process. In my 28 years of pastoring, I have found great success in hiring staff that previously served as volunteers within the ministry. Although I occasionally hire outside the church, when I hire from within, I have already witnessed the person’s core values, work ethic, and observed strengths and weaknesses that give me a comfort level in bringing them on the team. Likewise, the congregation knows and trusts them and are more willing to help them be successful by building on the established relationship. 

While hiring staff from within the congregation has its positive side, it also has intrinsic risks that you must be aware of. First, the ministry leader must be careful not to skip or short-circuit a formalized hiring process just because the candidate is familiar. This is especially important if there has been a close friendship with the ministry leader or any other staff member already on the team. Be aware of any blind spots of hiring a friend and allow others to interview them outside of your presence. Let their endorsement be the deciding factor in the decision to move forward. 

The potential member turned staff must be made aware that the nature of their relationship to the ministry leader and the church will change once they join the organization as an employee. Here are a few issues to consider:

  • The member turned employee needs to understand that there will be a higher level of accountability placed on them as a paid employee. Ministry is work and they will be expected to work at church just as in a secular job. I have encountered a few persons that thought working for the church meant they could take advantage of the flexibility ministry offers or were not prepared for the 24/7 demands of ministry that don’t fit into a typical 40-hour work week.
  • They must maintain a higher level of confidentiality due to the nature of their interaction with sensitive data, the personal information of members, or private staff-level conversations about new church initiatives not ready to be shared with the full congregation.
  • They need to be aware that some in the congregation will view them differently once they come on staff and are compensated with church funds. While it is true all church staff work for and serve the congregation, they must be clear that their job assignment comes from the direct supervisor and not a demanding congregant who decries, “I pay your salary.”
  • The new member turned staff will have to set boundaries on their close personal relationships with church members who may want to use the staff member to voice personal agendas to church leadership.  
  • The new staff member needs to understand that their staff position will alter the relationship they once had with the pastor. He will at times have to reprimand them if work is not completed and also minister to their personal and family needs. While he is still their pastor, he also serves as supervisor and boss. This dual role of shepherd and supervisor can be disconcerting for some persons when the pastor functions as the manager and not just their minister.
  • They need to be sure to steward well their personal devotional life once on staff.  Working in the ministry day to day can place a strain on one’s daily devotions and weekend worship experience because of the obligations of ministry at a staff level. Finding time to be available to God’s Spirit so He can meet your needs rather than being available to the congregation to meet their needs is essential. A healthy staff will have a healthy rhythm for personal spiritual renewal and vitality. 

As pastor, I have sought to provide pastoral care to the entire staff and ensure that they are healthy spiritually, provided for financially, and work in an environment that is enjoyable and rewarding. This requires me to be aware of the personal needs of staff and to navigate between my twofold roles as pastor and employer. While I embrace my responsibility, I continually remind the staff that they were hired to work “in” the ministry and not “be” the ministry. They each have the responsibility to manage their own spiritual and personal lives in order to serve our congregation and community to the best of their ability. As pastor, it is my job to make sure they don’t allow the ministry around them to destroy the ministry of God within them.

Posted on June 4, 2021

Pastor Tyrone E. Barnette is a native of Roxboro, North Carolina. He is the senior pastor of Peace Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia. He earned a Master of Divinity at Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University and is currently pursuing his Doctor of Ministry degree in Strategic Leadership from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
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