4 Mistakes To Avoid When Hiring Church Staff

In the past 30 years, I’ve had the opportunity to hire a bunch of people (likely more than 200!) in non-profit, church, and business environments.

Especially in a church, hiring the right people for your team is crucial for the overall vision and health of the ministry. The process requires prayer, good systems, and open dialogue. Pitfalls abound when staffing for a church team, but if you avoid these mistakes, the end result can be a team member that brings invaluable contributions to your church or ministry.

Here are four of the biggest mistakes church leaders make when trying to find the right people for their church staff and how to avoid making them:

1. The hiring decision is made alone, without group input, wisdom, and discernment.

Your point of view is exactly that - one viewpoint. I’m really good at hiring, but I’m not nearly as good by myself as when I pull in others. The team around you is working toward the same vision, and their different vantage points can highlight things in a candidate you may otherwise miss. Valuing the input of others not only makes the search a more well-rounded one, it makes the process something the whole team can rally behind. Ultimately, you want to find a person who fits your core values and adds to what your church and ministry are about. The insight of those around you can be an important asset that provides clarity, confirmation, and nuanced depth to the church staff member search.

2. References are not called.

At the beginning of a search, you will inevitably have a set of ideal criteria dealing with the skills, personality strengths, and work experience of the eventual hire. When this ideal criteria is met on a resume, the temptation is to accept it at face value - after all, you’ve found what you were looking for!

However, the resume is a candidate’s best face, not necessarily the most accurate one. People may fudge dates, embellish facts, or even outright lie - unfortunately, even in ministry. Thoroughly checking a ministry candidate’s references allows you to make a staffing decision in confidence, ensuring that you’re hiring a trustworthy person of integrity.

3. Interviews are used solely to "grill" candidates, not sell them on your vision and team.

While you should ask plenty of questions to assess potential and address areas of concern, interviews shouldn’t be one-way interrogations. They should be a dialogue in which both parties communicate why the fit would be a good one.

Explore strengths and weaknesses, but wear your recruiting hat as well as your discernment hat. Be proud of your team, your staff culture, and your vision, and let candidates know why they would excel in what you’re doing. Give the candidate an opportunity to ask questions and “sell” them on why your organization is a place they should consider investing their life.

4. Chemistry is ignored.

In most hiring situations, you and your church team are going to be around this person several hours a day, several days a week. The candidate’s values, DNA, and personality are going to rub off on your team, and vice versa. It’s important to make sure that this new person is going to be a life-giving contributor to your overall vision and staff culture. Good chemistry means better teamwork and a scenario where everyone is thriving in their gifts and callings. As my colleague William Vanderbloemen likes to say, culture trumps competency every time.

The process of finding new church team members can be daunting, but avoiding these mistakes will increase your chance for a successful hire.

Tim StevensComment