5 Mistakes Churches Make When Hiring

There is often an unintentional tendency to conduct what seems more like a beauty pageant than a process to hire the best candidate.

The position doesn’t matter, and it can be the pastor, technical personnel, someone on the children’s ministry team, a worship leader, or support staff, etc. There is always the danger of parading pedigrees, and picking who’s popular rather than digging deep and being diligent.

Whether your church is large or small, every person you choose to serve on staff matters in a big way. Each one carries the culture, vision, and heart of your church. One misaligned staff person can do more damage than imaginable.

Firing a staff member is much more complicated than hiring one. And because this is true, there is an inherent temptation to think about hiring as relatively easy and therefore lighten up in the process. Bad call. Dig in, do your homework, and make wise choices.

Here are five mistakes to avoid that will help you make better hires.

1) Lowering standards

When you are short a staff member, either someone else carries those additional responsibilities, or the job doesn’t get done. That is pressure. Time passes, someone becomes overloaded, balls are dropped, and fractures start to show themselves in your ministry. The pressure increases.

Soon, if a candidate says they love Jesus and likes coffee, they start to look pretty good. Yes, that’s exaggerated, but if you’ve been hiring for a while, you know what I mean.

It’s far better to wait than to settle and make the wrong hire. You are not looking for a perfect person, but you do want the right person.

2) Surrendering to politics

Personality matters. In John Maxwell’s book, The 5 Levels of Leadership, Level 2 reminds us that people follow you because they like you. But if that’s the only reason, you’re in trouble. This is especially true in hiring.

Hiring someone you know can be a great advantage. It’s smart to hire people from within your church when you can. But hiring buddies, friends and “an influential person’s son or daughter” just because of the relationship is often a huge mistake.

Don’t give in to political pressure. Hold strong. Each candidate must be able to stand on their own merits and capable of doing the job.

3) Rushing the process

If the person is worth hiring, and God is in the process, there is no need to panic and hire fast. You won’t lose them if they are the right person and called by God to serve on your team. Take your time.

Taking your time doesn’t mean to go slow. Keep moving. You should be doing something nearly every day in a hiring process. It may take months to find the right person, that’s OK. The principal idea is to cover all your bases and don’t cheat the process.

One good rule of thumb is to have three good candidates that you would hire before you select one. This isn’t always possible, but the closer you adhere to that practice the better your hires will be.

4) Unwilling to ask the hard questions

It’s easy to see how this happens. You like the person, they like you, and you share good chemistry. You have a relational approach, and so before you know it, it feels like you are good friends. But you don’t really know the person yet, not like you need to.

This sets you up to skip the more difficult questions. I’ve done it! For example, I’ve skipped asking about theological issues, temptations they face, or fears they battle. That’s a mistake. Or specific things such as belief about tithing, their personal prayer life, or recent mistakes they’ve made.

Asking the hard questions isn’t done with a harsh spirit, or in a way that makes the interview uncomfortable. It’s about expressing appropriate maturity between you and the candidate to genuinely get to know them.

This includes calling references. A practical tip here is to always ask for at least one or two more references than are listed on the resume.

5) Failing to involve a group

No matter how smart you are, or how much experience you have, hiring someone by yourself is a mistake. Your personal perspective is good, but it’s too narrow. You need input from others to make the best choice.

If you are the pastor of a small church, ask two or three business people in your church to help you. If you are a staff person in a large church, it’s important to form a well-selected team of at least three people. Even five interviewers are not too many.

This doesn’t mean you surrender the decision to a group vote, and there is usually a final decision-maker. But if that decision-maker is wise, they will listen carefully to the input and opinions of the team.

Avoid these five mistakes, and you’ll make better hires!

3 thoughts on “5 Mistakes Churches Make When Hiring”

  1. Only twice in my life have I not seen a single red flag in the interviews and both of them proved to be great places to work. Both were businesses owned by godly Christian men. Both of them have died and both lived a life that honored God in their dealings with others. One of them got me started in business. I also lived in his home for one year before my wife and I got married. For 20 years of my life he and I had regular conversations. The last conversation we had was two weeks before he dief. He always asked about my Bible reading and prayer. In the middle years of my life I pastored and found very few leaders in churches who lived that kind of exemplary life. Not one person in any interview asked me about how I made disciples. One church did ask me about what I did once I brought it up. I believe the most basic qualification that proves leadership is shown by how a person leads others in “teaching them to observe all I have commanded.” While part if that is done in small groups and in the congregation, it is completed at a more intimate level on a one to one basis.

  2. While this article does offer some great insight and advice to church hiring it like most things a double-edged sword, many churches shoot the foot
    the right candidate for the job may very well be who you consider to be the wrong one based on theIr own High standards
    So maybe DO lower then a bit

    IE asking for 3-5yrs experience isn’t always reasonablee
    Not everyone can attend seminary right away
    Don’t expect everyone to have only “ministry” experience especially if they can’t attend seminary right away

    After all this isn’t a beauty contest

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