Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Many have asked questions regarding our philosophy and practices of hiring new staff. Others have asked questions regarding how large a staff should be. These are great questions. I will try to answer some of them with this blog. And if it takes two blogs, then part 2 will come soon.

What size should a church staff be? There is no right or wrong answer to that question. Studies show that the typical church will average 40-60 percent of its operating budget to personnel. So we always try to stay within that range, ideally 50-55 percent (my opinion only). Another factor to consider is whether or not the church wants to staff itself for status quo or for growth. For example, take our church--running around 600-700 on Sunday mornings. Do we staff for our existing size or for the next level of growth? I believe the wise church staffs for growth.

With the recent hire of Rick Jones as church administrator, I believe we have positioned ourselves more for the growth end. And then with the added blessing of Charles Fant coming on board as a self-supporting pastoral counselor--that just adds to our position. Don't quote me on the exact figures--but before we hired Rick, the personnel portion of our budget represented 45-50 percent of our budget. With his hire, personnel costs are 50-55 percent of our budget, still very much within the realm of typical churches.

Hiring from Within. A practice we have implemented in hiring over the last several years is to look within our own church family for possible candidates. Again, this is not a right or wrong matter. Many churches still go outside the church to hire any position. However, the trend I've noticed in leading churches across America is to hire from within the congregation. Doing so makes a lot of sense.

When I'm looking for a new associate pastor, for example, there are three main ingredients I'm looking for. I call them the three C's. Of course, there are many other factors involved, but these three are so critical. First, competency. Does the person have the skill set that we are looking for. Second, character. Is the person's reputation above board? Third, chemistry. Will the person work well on our staff team? This third quality is probably the most difficult one to assess. Not until the person is on board do we discover fully if the chemistry is there. All three qualities must be present. One of the worst things one could do would be to hire someone when one of these three ingredients is missing and simply hope that he/she improves.

A great advantage of hiring from within is that the person already has a proven track record. We know his/her reputation. We've seen them work in volunteer settings. We know how they get along with people. Bringing someone from the outside is certainly not a bad way of hiring. But it sure is easier to assess someone when you've been "living" with them over a period of time versus getting to know someone through a few interviews and checking references.

I knew it all along--this subject deserves more than one post. So I'll try to do another blog tomorrow to give you some further insights on our hiring principles and practices.

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