Skip to main content

7 Tips for Hiring the Right Person for the Church Staff

We must make good staff hires in the church. 

That’s seems common sense to me , but there’s a definite reason. 

In most churches it is often difficult to remove someone once they are added. (That’s somewhat of a pet peeve of mine after spending much of my years in business, but that’s another blog post.)
Regardless of the industry, however, adding to a team is a critical decision — perhaps one of the most important a leader makes. New team members change the dynamics of a team. That will either be positively or negatively.

In a day where budgets are thinner and the mission remains critical, we must hire the best people we can find.

Here are 7 tips I’ve learned by experience for hiring:

Biblical qualities – In a church position, especially a called position, this is first and foremost. There are standard passages we use for positions such as pastor. I wonder, however, if there aren’t good Biblical standards for hiring even in every position — even in the secular world. And not just using the couple passages we tend to use. I realize this is open for critique, but it seems to me the “fruit of the spirit” is a good measure of character for anyone I’d place on my team — in the church or in business. Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control — would you hire someone with those qualities?

Know them – I have told my boys that in their generation, they will most likely never have a job where they didn’t know someone connected to the organization. The more you can know the person the more likely you are to make a wise decision. This is one reason we often hire from within our church whenever possible. If it’s not possible to know the individual personally, try to know people who know the person. I’ve found there is usually someone connected to the person on our team, in our church, or in my social network. LinkedIn is a good resource for this. (If there’s no way to know the person, that doesn’t eliminate them, but it does generate a slower decision-making process for me.)

Investigate them – I don’t insist on background checks on everyone. I understand some do and I’m okay with that, but I do believe in asking questions of those who know the person — whether or not they were placed on their list of references. Knowing them personally helps eliminate some doubt, but if there is any unanswered questions in your mind, it is better to be awkward in the beginning than surprised in the end. (I’d be curious in the comments if your organization does background checks and if so, what kind.)

Meet the spouse – I have always held a simple policy in business and ministry, especially for any position with authority. I won’t hire someone whom I wouldn’t also hire his or her spouse. Period. Most likely, whether you know it or not, you are hiring both anyway. Both spouses will certainly impact the organization either directly or indirectly. Plus, the spouse always asks better questions. 

Chemistry AND Culture – The ability to get along with others and especially the team often trumps a pedigreed potential employee. We can make a team work with people who work well together and are sold out for the vision of the organization.

Culture is equally important. If the person doesn’t like or can’t support the church where it is today (even if the desire is to take the church elsewhere) they will likely make things difficult for the church and you. They may be a great person, you may like them a lot, but they need to be able to love the church (and it’s people) even in its current state, even if they aren’t satisfied with where the church is today.

Talk them out of it – I get push back on this principle when I share it, but I’m really not trying to be a bad guy here. I want to make sure someone knows all the negatives of me and our church before they agree to join our team. So, before a person accepts a position, I tell them everything I can think of why they perhaps shouldn’t accept the job. I did this in business and I have repeated it in the church world. If it makes you feel better, to date I’ve never had anyone decide not to join us. It has prompted some good, honest conversations as a result of this tactic. I feel people have come better prepared for what they will face once they join our team. It also exposes some issues or concerns we likely would have had to deal with down the road. It is easier on the front end.

Take risk – After I’ve done my homework, I’ve prayed for clarity along the way, I hire the person my heart tells me to hire. Many times it is a gut-instinct. I often bring Cheryl along on interviews and I heavily rely on her recommendation. She’s got a much better feel for people than I have sometimes. In business, and in church, I’ve taken some huge risks on people. I always tell leaders — if you’re gut is grounded with Jesus — you can trust your gut. Overall, we’ve created great teams and I’ve even found a few superstars along the way.

What tips do you have for hiring the right person?

Related Posts

Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

More posts by Ron Edmondson

Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • Rebecca says:

    This was really interesting to me and insightful. I can agree with each point, but hesitate with the emphasis on the spouse. I'm really thankful that the church I work for didn't factor that in 10 years ago when I had my first interview. 🙂 I came to our church staff, having been married only 4 months to a husband who is extremely introverted and (especially that early on), didn't make a great first impression.

    He is very quiet and hard to read, but yet he's been the one to help me keep this passion I have for serving our church alive- even during the years that I wanted to quit. I had a lot of comments from other staff like "how did you end up with him?" at first but once they got to know him (a couple years in), saw his value.

    Today during a ministry event, he served behind the scenes, filling in gaps and doing the tasks I couldn't recruit anyone else for- while caring for our toddler at the same time. Even with his full time job, he makes my passion for our church his priority too. His value to our church isn't something anyone could have discerned in an interview. I absolutely agree on your point about the impact the husband/wife will make, but just not certain how you really can judge that accurately in one meeting.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Good point. And, as a definite introvert I would agree about not eliminating because the person isn't very engaging.   I do believe, however, that one can discern even through this. We have many introverts on our staff or spouses of staff. Those aren't red flags for me. The red flags appear in much louder ways — when a spouse is confrontational, argumentative, absentee, etc. Ultimately, of course, it is all a matter of prayer.  Thanks for weighing in. 

  • jimpemberton says:

    I would also add to pray over the process. On the one hand, prayer should go without saying. On the other hand, it should be an expressed priority. Anyone involved in the decision should pray for guidance and pray for anyone applying for the position. If hiring is a team effort, then the team to pray together for each other. Whoever is at the interview should pray with the interviewee. If it's a big enough deal to have a number of people in the interview, like if you are bringing on a new pastor, have a couple of people pray throughout the course of the interview either quietly in the same room or in a nearby room.

  • DanGracer says:

    EXCELLENT.. I would add one more tip. Ask them about their relationship with their earthly
    father. If that is troubled and has no resolution, it will be problematic. I have been burned every time I hired ignoring that problem.

    • jimpemberton says:

      This is a very good one. Hearing them talk about their walk with Christ from their own mouth will give an indication of their spiritual maturity. If they are humble before God, they will be humble with a team. If their testimony is self-exalting, then you can expect problems from a self-serving attitude manifesting itself in work relationships.

  • Ben Reed

    I remember when I was coming on staff at Grace, you tried to talk me out of it. It felt weird at first, but it really pushed me to search my heart, ask hard questions, and really determine what God was calling me to do.

    Great post.

  • At about this time last year we hired a part-time assistant who's main focus was working with the teens. I thought I checked him out pretty good, and his wife seemed like she was on board (I learned from observing my father-in-law struggle with an assistant the truth you shared about when you hire someone, you hire their spouse), but less than a year later they moved back home. I did my best to check them out, and even had them spend 3 days with us at camp to get to know them better. While it was his wife that ultimately wanted to move back home (which fulled me because she always outwardly seemed on board), he definitely was no mature enough and ready enough to move away from family and handle the responsibility.

    My question (or maybe it is more of a statement out of frustration?) is this – why aren't people more forthcoming with information when you do call them to check on a possible hire? I ask because I feel like if their pastor, who I talked with, would have been more forthcoming with some information, I might have been better able to help them while they were here. Maybe I just did not ask the right kind of questions?

    • ronedmondson says:

      Brad, it has happened to all of us at some point. Mostly it's because I move too fast, but sometimes it's just we make a wrong decision. Each one we learn from. I have tried, however, to get some references beyond the references given…again, people I know or know someone who knows them is so much easier with this, because there's a better chance they will give me the "inside scoop".

      As to why people don't share, there are some legal issues here from a former employer, but I think there is also a fear that the information will be used not to hire the person and then will be shared with them somehow.