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How to Increase Church Staff Without Spending a Dime

Pastor, I suspect if you are in a growing church you and your staff feel stretched to accomplish all there is to do. You have probably said aloud you are “understaffed”.

I know, because it is part of being a growing church and I said it many times in church revitalization, but especially in church planting. In any organization, growth brings stress to systems and structure. Growth in staffing needs will always outpace growth in cash flow to add more staff.

What if you could increase the size of your staff without spending a dime?

You can. You may not be able to hire for a new paid position, but you could:

  • Raise up new leaders
  • Empower some volunteers
  • Hand out more authority
  • Improve your skill of delegating
  • Release even more control
  • Cast your vision to others
  • Enlist additional supporters

Chances are, regardless of your church size, you have some untapped leadership already in your church. There are people with skills you and your team don’t have. They may not be leading yet, they may not even appear committed at this time, but it also could be they are waiting for an opportunity.

They may need to be recruited. Some of the best leaders in your church are serving elsewhere in the community, but will need to be asked to join your efforts in the church. In fact, I usually found some of the best leaders weren’t serving because they hadn’t been recruited.

(When I left the church where I was pastor we had seven amazing people on our finance committee, for example. They were godly, intelligent and absolutely brilliant in the handling of finances. Of those seven, three had never served in any leadership position in our church before I asked them, including the chairperson, and two had never served on finance, even though they were highly experienced in their field. They didn’t volunteer. We recruited them.)

I’ve noticed many pastors and church staffs holding too tightly to positions of leadership; or leadership is held among a small recurring group of volunteers. This limits the church’s growth, stresses out the staff, and keeps new people from growing in volunteer experience, which always seems to directly grow them in their faith. (Jesus seemed to understand and practice this method of discipleship.)

Here’s my encouragement: Take a risk on a new leader for your church. Recruit someone and give them a simple task as a trial run.

I wouldn’t start with the finance chair position, but find something with an ending date, a special project perhaps, and let them lead. See how they do in a smaller role. You will discover some people will let you down. Of course, this also happens with paid staff. Then you evaluate if the problem was you or them and go from there.

Keep in mind, people you recruit may not do things your way, but analyze their efforts based on reaching the mission of the church. You may find a new volunteer staff member who can handle other, on-going, even larger tasks.

And, suddenly you will realize you’re not as understaffed as you thought you were.

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 13 Comments

  • Hannah says:

    My church is going through the opposite, a dwindling, ageing congregation, with the required tasks being divided among less and less people.
    (None of us are paid).
    I was encouraged by a priest to join in with the setting up of a baby and toddler group, but our staff of 5 is now down to 2, and now I am trapped, if I leave, it will shut.
    The group is doing well, and we have 10 children who have “graduated” up to Sunday school over the past couple years, and I help with that too, but is is hard going to give up two mornings a week, every week, all year round.

  • Terry says:

    We’re a church with 15% growth in last 10mths. Averaging attendance of 600+ on Sunday across three services…
    One of our biggest challenges is staffing.
    We recently moved our admin function from one full time paid person to a team of six volunteers who cover the week. This enabled us to employ a further pastoral leader almost full time.

    It’s about employing the key people who make things happen and giving them the freedom to recruit volunteers who also things happen.
    Exponential influence and impact!

    • ronedmondson says:

      Thanks for the good illustration and for leading a church well! Love to see God at work!

  • JasonWert says:

    Good stuff Ron. I left a church once because the pastor and his staff wouldn't delegate anything to anyone. If you came to them with an idea for a new ministry, they'd dismiss you and then a few months later they would suddenly be leading a ministry in the same way. Then they would complain that no one was volunteering at the events they would set up and how it was "our obligation as a church member" to do what they told us to do. When it was credit time, the lead pastor was always right out front to talk to a TV camera or a reporter. Always thanked his staff who usually weren't the ones doing the work.

    The churches I've worked hardest in as I've moved around the country are the ones where the pastors didn't care who got the credit as long as the Kingdom was advanced. Eventually those churches stopped being about anyone getting credit and all about everyone serving Christ with their gifts in whatever way was needed at the time.

  • darrell says:

    This is a good thing, and something we are learning as a church plant staff. We can't afford any more staff (let alone ourselves) so we have a high value on raising leaders and delegating to those leaders.

  • (Though I am not a pastor or church leader) I will say that in India it's a mixed picture. Some churches are currently understaffed while some are overstaffed. Understaffing arises primarily due to poor pay. On the other hand, since India is highly populated country, supply of labor is always high and churches also get people despite poor pay.

    I realize that things may be different in US.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Yea, ministry here isn't as poor paying I'm sure, but it won't get you rich either. The problem with understaffing is usually not being able to afford to pay more staff.