By Jeff Gilmer
The biggest church staffing mistake you can make is hiring the wrong person.
Not only does making a bad hire cost your church a lot of money in the long run, but it can also ruin morale, productivity, and vision alignment among your church staff.
Some people just have a knack for making good hires. Others have had a lot of years of experience to give them impeccable intuition. If neither of those is you, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn to hire great staff. You may just need to learn what not to do.
Here are 6 church staffing mistakes the Vanderbloemen Search Group team has seen church leaders make and how you can avoid them.
1. Involving the wrong people in the hiring process
Before you start a search for a new church staff member, your team should ask, “Who should be involved in making this hire?”
This is probably the most crucial piece. Are the people who wrote the job description and requirements the ones actually doing the interviews? Are you letting both this new hire’s direct manager and fellow team members interview the candidates?
If you have one person writing the job description and another person interviewing, yet the team that this candidate is expected to work with has never met them, how will you know if there is a good culture fit on both sides? We’ve seen churches make this mistake too many times, causing tension, confusion, and a longer search process than expected.
Having the right people on your hiring team is crucial to the success of the new hire.
2. Failing to detail the exact role that needs to be filled
Before you write a job description, can you name the specific needs that this position will fill?
We often see rapidly growing churches that are overwhelmed with new initiatives, so they start hiring because they know they need help. However, they can’t name the areas of responsibility that this new person will take over.
Until you lay out what responsibilities you want this role to take on, it will be hard to make the right hire. You might think you need a Student Pastor, but once you write out all the details you may find out what you have actually needed this whole time is a Family Pastor or a NextGen Pastor.
Editor’s note: many leaders find the Positon Insights process to be indispensable in determining the exact role that needs to be filled.
3. Writing a confusing job description
Is your job description clear and concise, or is it confusing and difficult to read? You might not know what 100% of the responsibilities of this new job will be, and of course, there is always room for “other duties as assigned.”
However, you should know what 95% of this position is going to look like so you can properly recruit for the role and set candidates’ expectations upfront. Without a clear vision, objectives, duties, performance benchmarks, and expectations, it will be very difficult to gauge whether or not your new hire is serving your ministry well.
4. Playing the “what if” game
You want to hire the best person you can find for your role, but are you missing out on great candidates because you are waiting for “the one?”
You should always hire slowly with intentionality and prayer, but don’t miss out on the right candidate because you’re comparing them to an imaginary “what if” standard.
Hiring always comes with risk, but if you’re abiding by best practices, seeking outside help, and have a candidate that meets both the cultural and competency pieces you’re looking for, they might be the right candidate for the role.
Candidates are people, and no person is perfect. Don’t miss out on someone amazing because you are waiting for perfection. Don’t let fear guide your search instead of faith.
5. Neglecting to do thorough reference and background checks
A crucial key to a successful hiring process is a thorough reference and background check.
Gail Mayes, a background check specialist, says, “A misconception about conducting church background checks is that they are intended to ‘dig up dirt’ on a potential hire. This is not the case. The process of conducting church background checks is intended for you to get to know your potential new team member better and gain clarity on whether they would be a good fit for your team or not.”
If you come across anything concerning a background check, make sure you give your potential new hire a chance to explain. You never know what the circumstances are behind bankruptcy, debt, or a late payment until you sit down and talk about the details with the candidate.
6. Not interviewing the spouse or family of the candidate
If you are in the final stages of the search process, you should definitely be interviewing the candidate’s spouse. You can tell a lot about a person in watching how they interact with their spouse.
Is the entire family ready for a move? You might have a candidate who is thrilled to move for a new position, but you might find out that the spouse and family are not ready for a big move. If you only ever talk to the candidate, you might not know how their family is feeling about a possible transition.
Are you expecting the spouse to be heavily involved in your church? If so, that’s even more of a reason to include them in the interview process and set expectations upfront.
These are a few of the hiring mistakes we see being made. What are some things you wish you had been told before you started making hires for your organization?
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