If you're serving as a lead pastor or overseeing a larger department, you're probably responsible for the process of hiring and developing staff members. It can be incredibly intimidating to be the one who has to decide who gets a job, or worse if you have to separate someone from their job. Seminary teaches us a lot about leadership principles and management, but sometimes we have to learn through experience the process of staffing ministries and our churches.
Above all else, let me encourage you to strive towards a team mindset in staffing. It's really easy to just accumulate people and hope it works out. But leadership is a lot of culture setting, and that's where we can develop healthy teams. In my book Dream Teams, I believe in 4 key aspects: Calling, Character, Competency, and Chemistry, in developing a team. Many times we just have a group, where everyone works alongside each other but not together. See the difference? One exists, the other thrives.
It's possible to have a team mindset among your staff. But it means you have to work hard to cast vision, invest in people, build systems, and harness synergy. All of those are much harder than simply filling needs. But it's in these that far too many ministries stagnate because they just have people on the bus, not (as Collins says) "the right people in the right seats."
Taking each of those, how can we strive for a team mindset?
Calling - We build a team of people who love what they're doing. When you're hiring, identify people who have a particular calling to the work you're seeking. Our ministry assistant rose to the top during the interview process when she said she felt her work was a ministry, not just a job. That stood out among other (very qualified) candidates. She loves what she does. We need to make sure the people we bring on and develop love what they're doing. If not, we have to ask ourselves two questions: 1) Can I help them find the right fit here? 2) Is God beginning to call them elsewhere?
Character - We build a team of people who we can trust. In the book I have a long list of key qualities people should have in order to be a good fit on a ministry team. And it's important to make sure we put character before competency. Who you are > What you can do. We have to surround ourselves with people of integrity, people we can trust with money, people who are capable of handling sensitive situations well, people who have a strong track record and work ethic and credit score.
Competency - We build a team of people who are good at what they do. It's important that we make sure character > skills, but we can't overlook the importance of skills. We need to make sure that those we bring on board or develop have the necessary ability to do the work they're expected to. For a critical ministry staff role, we asked a candidate how they would share the Gospel with a child. Their answer was all over the map, and they didn't get the position. When we're doing our annual evaluations, we need to identify areas of strength and weakness. The good news? Competency can be learned. It can be improved upon. So if you have someone lacking in some needed skills, get them some training, surround them with coaching, and identify a mentor who can work alongside them.
Chemistry - This is where it's always important to make sure you're bringing other people into any decision about hiring. You can have blind spots that others may not. Our church's bylaws make sure that no hiring decision is made in isolation. A search team of 5 have to be on board with a ministry candidate, and a hiring team of 3 have to be on board for a support position. Why so many voices? Because fit matters. We want to make sure that the people we have on board get along, enjoy working together, have a good rapport, and interact not only professionally but Christianly. In the book, I make the point that Chemistry = Friendship, Unity, and Trust.
Ministry leader, more than just for hiring, these principles are important as you develop the team around you. But you can't do that without spending time with them. Do daily check-ins, do weekly/monthly conversations. Make sure you're listening as much as you're talking. Help your team keep their eye on the main thing, and in everything you do remember that your charge to steward God's church well means that you need to steward God's laborers well.
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Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.