We work constantly with churches which are looking to hire new staff members. One of the most surprising pieces of counsel we offer is this: In hiring church staff, competence is not the main thing!
For example…your First Church hires a lead musician. His talent is unsurpassed. He is a master of his instrument his voice is remarkable, as is his ability to engage people in worship. You assume that he will raise the musical excellence on your music team. You are filled with hope.
Initially, all goes well. But then things begin to unravel. He doesn’t get along with people. He is not a team player. He seems more committed to being up front than to serving in and forwarding the mission of the church. His priorities simply do not match the core values of the church.
Sound familiar? Hiring the right people is essential for success in the church, in any organization. A key difference is that churches generally find it harder to fire an employee. If and when the firing eventually occurs, it usually takes so long that the damage done lingers for a long time.
While churches should, of course, improve their processes for firing people that they need to let go, the better thing to do is to hire the right people in the first place. Too often we end up hiring based on competence, which then leads to firing for character.
Often, when a church is ready to fill a position a team begins by drafting a list of competencies needed. Skill sets, experience levels, knowledge base and education are all at the top of the competencies list required. The first interview begins with a recitation of those competencies. Then, maybe a question or two about character or values is thrown in for good measure. But this misses the mark.
Character and values that are a mismatch to the culture and values of the congregation is the number one reason we see when employees are let go in a church.
In light of that, process should start with exploration of the culture, values and character of the applicants and comparing that to the culture and values within the church.
You can’t instill values in a person. They exist in the person already. Hires that do not share your values and culture will dilute them.
Zappos is a company that embodies hiring and firing based on values. Zappos is overtly willing to hire and fire people based on their clearly stated core values, completely independently of their job performance. They are ready and willing to do this completely independent of the person’s ability to have the skills to execute the job. This is remarkable, and remarkably smart.
So where do you begin?
First, clearly articulate the church’s culture: core values, character, ethics, relational style. You cannot match the person to something you are not clear about yourself.
Second, draw up a list of personal characteristics and values that match the culture of the church. Every hire, no matter what the position, should be a match.
Finally, it is now time to talk about competencies for the particular position. If the potential hire fits the culture of the church well but is lacking in some competencies, hire that person right away and spend the money, time and effort in providing what they need to grow into those competencies. You will not regret it later!
If your church is searching for a pastor, our Pastor Search Guide offers a comprehensive, step-by-step guide for the process – perfect for both search committees and individual leaders! To order or find out more, click here.