Context Staffing



Pt. 3: Hiring From the Outside


By: Justin Anderson

When you hire from the outside, prepare to pony up.

This is part three of a four-part series on hiring staff in a bad economy. In the first week, we re-emphasized the need for Leadership Development in our churches so we have a constant flow of leaders (and young, cheap labor). Last week we talked about why you need to give your staff 5% raises every year to keep up with the cost of living increases (you’re welcome). This week, we are talking about hiring from the outside.

This is the last reason why you should keep raising the salaries of your staff. Inevitably, you will have to hire someone from the outside at some point. Usually, it's for a Lead Pastor, Executive Pastor, or Worship. These are the roles that are most difficult to find in a church through leadership development and the most likely to have to come from outside.

When you go outside, you will always have to pay market rates. If you aren't already paying your people market rates, you will not be able to hire from the outside without blowing up your pay structure or hiring someone who isn’t competent.

Here is a scenario that I face all the time as a staffing consultant. I get a call from a LP saying that his church has grown past the 300 mark and he thinks they need an Executive Pastor. I say, "Excellent, we can help you with that. How much are you planning to pay this person?" Sometimes it surprises people how early in the conversation I ask this question but it's only because I have learned that whatever number the pastor has in his head (usually about 75% of his own salary), it's too low and he needs to hear that right at the beginning.

Here is the straight talk. In the ministry world - just like the real world - no one moves backward. Unless the wife wants to move near her mom or the guy is nearing retirement age and wants to be near grandkids, no one moves backward. Everyone is looking to take the next step; be it in position, the scope of responsibility, size of the church, or compensation, everyone moves forward.

There are exceptions, blah, blah, blah.

The rule is that no one moves backward. This means that when you have a church of 300 and want an Executive Pastor, you have to think realistically about the kind of candidate who would want your job. Often I get LPs who say they want someone who has been where he wants to be. In other words, they have been an XP in a church of 500 or more so that they can help them get there too. That's a great idea, except why would that guy want to take a step backward? He's been where you are, so unless you happen to have a church near the beach or are going to offer more money, why would he take your job?

Often when I have these phone calls, I tell the LP what it will likely cost him to hire the guy he wants and the response is, "that's more than I make!" That's probably true, and reason #4 is why you should be giving your staff 5% raises every year and maintaining a competitive compensation structure.

Because when you want to go outside to make that killer hire that will take you over the next hill, you don't have enough money to pay for them. Or if you do, it will blow up your salary structure for all of the other staff members, and that doesn't fly.

Every day I hear an idealistic Lead Pastor tell me that maybe there's a guy out there who is looking for a new challenge and will fall in love with their church. And maybe that guy does exist, I mean God talked through a donkey, right? But that story is in the Bible for a reason, it's crazy. So, sure, that guy may exist out there but if he does and he wants the job you're offering at the pay you are offering, it might make it into a future iteration of the Bible.

Paying your existing staff market rate sets you up to be able to pay an outside hire when that day comes - and it will come eventually. Do your leadership development, give your annual raises, and be prepared to pay the market when you go outside.