Church planters are team builders. It’s what we do. Whether you are building a core team, launch team, a team of volunteers, a team of pastors, or a staff, you’re constantly building. One of my favorite parts of leading is the people I get to lead with. But hiring can be tricky, especially when it comes to the question of “when.”
A trend for many church planters today is that the lead pastor starts with a full time salary. That is amazing, but that was not my story (I wrote about bi-vocational pastoring a few months back). I got my first (small) paycheck from the church about 10 months after the launch and was hired full time about 2 years in. I’m thankful to my board for working hard with my budget to hire me as soon as possible.
As you consider hiring early in the game, here are a few rules I go by…
Hire yourself first.
I know, it sounds selfish. I get it. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t get hired full time until the church was about two years old. That’s not because I didn’t want the pay, but more so because I prioritized renting a permanent building over me receiving a paycheck. Like a mom takes a few months of maternity leave to be fully dedicated to time with their newborn, ideally, the church would have your full attention in its most needy state. A church can function without a full time executive pastor and full time worship leader, but it can’t function without a pastor. Prioritize your focus toward the church as much as you can.
Wait as long as you can to save as much money as you can.
A staff of five for a church of fifty is overkill. You’ll drain your budget.
On the other hand, a staff of five for a church of 500 may be pretty accurate.
A general rule of thumb is one full time staff member per 100 people at your church. That’s a rough estimate, and that number will flex based on the specific needs of your church. If you are able to hire some heavy lifters early in the game, the few of you may be able to run with a lot of weight for a while. Always keep a pulse on the team but don’t apologize for asking a lot of them. I’m not advocating dragging your feet but I do want to caution you against making people think that they’ll get hired if they’ll just put in a couple weeks’ worth of work. We’ll talk more about this when we discuss who to hire, but for now, I advise being slow and prayerful. And by the way, if the person is regularly hinting at a paycheck, do yourself a favor and add them to your “do not hire” list. You want someone who shows up for people, not just a paycheck!
Proactive hiring is better than reactive hiring.
Make it your goal to hire for what you want to grow into instead of what you’ve already grown into. I haven’t always done that well, and sometimes the budget or circumstances won’t allow. Some of the positions we have on staff now came out of a need to take something off of someone else’s plate. As the church grows, it will outgrow the shoulders of the person who has been carrying a lot of the weight. Other positions on our staff have been created for a need we feel or are planning for. For instance, our Guest Services Director was a mix of both. We hired her to oversee an area of the church that needed some immediate leadership, but also to create some new areas of ministry we don’t yet have.
Hopefully this helps with the ever-nagging question of when you should begin the hiring process. Next week, we’ll discuss the big question of “WHO should I hire?” Hint: you should be very picky!
K E V I N • M I L L E R
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