Context Staffing

Leadership

Discipleship

What Does Your Ideal Staff Member Look Like?

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By: Justin Anderson

When you are building out your staff team, it’s important to think beyond simply the positions you need to fill. Most churches are going to need administrative help, a worship leader, and someone to run the children’s ministry program. Whether you are able to hire these positions or recruit volunteers, it’s important to know what you are looking for BEFORE you start looking. When you don’t have a clear vision of what you are looking for, you will likely just take whatever comes your way.

You might be surprised at how many pastors I talk to who are looking for staff members but have no concrete idea of what they actually need. They have a general sense of the kinds of skills and experience they are looking for but very few specific ideas. This makes sense when you consider that most of us are heavily reliant on volunteers or people willing to work for below-market value. We are stretching our dollars as far as they can go and so, we think, we can’t be too picky about what we’re looking for.

As someone who has led church plants for much of the last 20 years, I can sympathize with this way of thinking. But it’s a mistake. If you don’t have a clear idea of what you are looking for and discipline yourself to go find that person, you will be frustrated with the people you attract and the results that you get.

At Context Staffing, our exploration process helps your team get very specific about the kind of leader needed to thrive in whatever role you are hiring for. We ask dozens of questions to better understand the range of candidates that make sense for your team. The questions we ask fall into five categories: theology, experience, demographics, skills, and cultural fit. Most of these are self-explanatory but let me walk through them quickly so you can apply these categories to your hiring process.

Then, over the next five weeks, I want to deep dive into each category so that when you begin your next staff search, you have some clear categories to guide your process.

Theology

Probably the most obvious of the five, but it’s important to define the range of theological beliefs that you can handle on your team. Not all churches require their staff to be in lockstep with the elders on all issues. Certainly, there are core doctrines that everyone needs to agree on, but often doctrines like eschatology or pneumatology are areas with more flexibility. Sometimes walking through these questions with an elder team helps to clarify the church’s positions in surprising ways.

Experience

This is one of the most misunderstood categories. When you think about the experiences that your next hire needs to have, you need to think more broadly than simply how long they have done a similar job. What is the totality of experiences that your ideal candidate would have?

Demographics

This one can be a little touchy these days, but it shouldn’t be. You need to have an idea of the type of person who would be a good fit, not just for the role but for your team. 

Skills

This is different from experience but the two are often lumped together. Just because someone has experience as a Children’s Ministry director doesn’t mean they have the skills to thrive in your church. Different churches and ministry philosophies require a different skill set.

Cultural Fit

This is the hardest to discern but, in my opinion, the most important category of all. The majority of hires that go wrong, do so because you hired someone who isn’t a good cultural fit for your team.

All of these categories are important and before you start looking for your next team member, you need to think through what specifically you are looking for in each of the categories. Next week, we’ll dive into theology, but for this week, I want to introduce the concept of IDEAL and LIMITS.

The way I think about hiring is similar to a dart board. There is a bullseye and there are several rings that are outside the bullseye but still on the board. If you play darts like I do, you know that the board itself cannot contain all of our shots but for our purposes, we’ll stick with the board.

The first step in the process is to define the IDEAL in each of these categories. Think about exactly what you’d want them to believe, for instance, and how their beliefs might mirror or complement your existing team. Then, think about an acceptable range of beliefs that you might be comfortable with. Take the gifts for instance. You might ideally want someone who is continuationist but leans conservative overall. But would you be comfortable with someone who is a cessationist? Or conversely, someone who is a little more aggressive than your team currently is? These are your LIMITS.

Do this in every category and then, when you are interviewing someone, you can plot them on the dart board. Are they a bullseye theologically but in the second or third ring demographically? When you have plotted all of the categories, you can assess them as a whole. It’s best to have at least two of the categories be bullseyes and try to avoid too many categories in the third or fourth rings.

This illustration may or may not resonate with you, so you can translate it as you see fit, but the principle holds. The more categories that score in the outer rings, the more likely it is that your hire is not going to work out.

Hiring is hard in the best of times, but having a plan can protect you from making hiring mistakes that can wreak havoc on your team.